Procrustean Bed – By Dr Roland Chia (Dated 3 Nov 2021)
Rev George Ong’s Comments:
In this article, the most crucial point that Dr Roland Chia made is in his final two concluding paragraphs:
“Put differently, Scripture is used selectively and arbitrarily to support and substantiate the ‘gospel’ according to Joseph Prince. However, because the ‘gospel’ according to Joseph Prince is not based on the entire counsel of the Word of God, it is a truncated and distorted ‘gospel’.
In reality, it is not the true Gospel at all! In reality, it is a different gospel (Galatians 1:6-8), a false gospel.”
If Joseph Prince preaches “a different gospel (Galatians 1:6-8), a false gospel,” according to Dr Roland Chia, how can he not be a heretic?
My kudos go to Dr Roland Chia, not just because he is a credible scholar, but more importantly, because he dares to consistently teach and speak the naked truth that Joseph Prince is a heretic who preaches a different and false gospel, especially against the backdrop of compromise, self-preservation and ungodliness even at the highest level of the Christian Church.
Procrustean Bed – By Dr Roland Chia
One of the most profound post-Reformation statements about Holy Scripture, is, in my opinion, found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1563, the doctrinal standard of the Anglican Church. Article VI, titled ‘Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scripture for Salvation’ states that:
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.
This Article emphasises, as its title suggests, the sufficiency of Scripture for human salvation. But what must not be missed is that when it speaks of Scripture, it is referring to the entire biblical canon comprising the Old and New Testaments.
In the next Article (VII), the Anglican Church is at pains to stress the continuing significance of the Old Testament for Christians. It states that ‘The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind in Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man.’
The Article ends by emphasising that the moral laws of God in the OT, especially the Ten Commandments continue to be relevant and binding for Christians. ‘[N]o Christian man whatsoever,’ it asserts, ‘is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.’
This statement by the Anglican Church eloquently articulates Protestant Christianity’s view of Scripture. It is in harmony with the teachings of the magisterial Reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin.
The new antinomians, of which Joseph Prince is one, however, have departed from this orthodox teaching. They insist that the books and passages of the Bible must be strictly classified as belonging either to the old or new covenant. The portions of Scripture that are placed in the ‘old covenant’ box are no longer binding for Christians.
For example, based on his view that the new covenant was enacted at the cross, Joseph Prince writes in Destined to Reign:
God wants us to be able to rightly divide the Word. He wants us to be astute in rightly dividing and clearly separating what belongs to the old covenant of law and what belongs to the new covenant of grace. He wants us to be able to distinguish what occurred before the cross from what occurred after the cross, and to understand what difference the cross made.
According to Joseph Prince, whatever comes before the cross belongs to the old covenant and therefore should be of no concern to Christians since they are God’s new covenant people. This includes all of the OT, but especially the Ten Commandments. Thus, Prince could assert quite categorically that, ‘with the advent of the new covenant of grace, the Ten Commandments have been made obsolete’ (emphasis in the original).
JESUS VERSUS PAUL
However, the approach that Joseph Prince has taken to ‘correctly divide the Word’ implies that the teachings of Jesus before his death and resurrection belong to the old covenant. They are therefore not relevant for Christians who belong to the covenant of grace.
Prince puts this across very clearly when he writes:
Whether interpreting the Old Testament, or the words which Jesus spoke in the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), let Jesus and His finished work at the cross be the keys to unlocking all the precious gems hidden in God’s Word. This means that we have to read everything in the context of what He came to do and what He accomplished at the cross for us. For example, some of the things that Jesus said in the four gospels were spoken before the cross—before He died for our sins – and some were said after the cross – when He had already won our complete forgiveness and rightfully given us His righteousness. It is the latter that applies to us (believers under the new covenant) today.
Since I have already critiqued this preposterous proposition in a previous article (published on this website), I shall not rehearse my arguments again here. (If you wish, please click here to view the article.)
But the implications of this statement are staggeringly clear: the bulk of Jesus’ teachings are not for Christians. They must go into the ‘old covenant’ box. Believers who belong to the new covenant need not concern themselves with them!
Now, with a huge chunk of Jesus’ teachings being relegated to the old covenant, it is not surprising that the new antinomians generally privilege the writings of Paul. Andrew van der Merwe puts this across starkly when he writes, ‘Paul preached a different message than Jesus, but for good reason: They were living under different covenants.’
Andrew Farley, another antinomian who wants to bring about a new grace reformation, concurs:
Peter, James, John and Paul wrote epistles about life under the new covenant. Years earlier, Jesus was teaching hopelessness under the old. The audience wasn’t the same. The covenant wasn’t the same. And the teachings aren’t the same.
In a similar vein, Joseph Prince maintains that Paul was the apostle of the new covenant ‘whom God appointed to preach the gospel of grace.’ According to Prince, Paul ‘received more revelation on the new covenant of grace that all the apostles put together, and was responsible for writing more than two-thirds of the New Testament.’ He deserves special privilege among the apostles.
In Destined to Reign, Prince clearly expresses his commitment to preach only the gospel that Paul preaches. He writes:
My only endeavour is to preach the same gospel that Paul preached, and no other gospel. Preaching any other gospel was a serious matter to Paul. In fact, he pronounced a double curse on those who preached a different gospel.
The schema controlling the teachings of the antinomians is quite obvious. Paul’s teachings are to be privileged even over the teachings of Jesus. This is because most of the recorded words of Jesus in the four gospels have no direct relevance for Christians. Unlike Jesus, Paul is the apostle of the new covenant, who ministered after it has been enacted at the death of Christ on the cross. The teachings of the apostle are therefore profoundly relevant to Christians.
This privileging of Paul over Jesus is unheard of in the history of Christianity. Such a move will not only introduce serious distortions to our understanding of the Christian faith. It also downgrades most of the teachings of Jesus, making them quite redundant for Christians because, as Farley puts it, ‘Jesus was teaching hopelessly under the old covenant.’
Like the Ten Commandments, the words of Jesus before the cross have been rendered obsolete by the new antinomians.
But how faithful is Joseph Prince’s preaching and teaching to that of the apostle Paul?
To be sure, Prince and his fellow antinomians put much emphasis on Paul’s statements in his various epistles regarding what Christ has accomplished for the believer. For example, they will shine the torch on Ephesians 1 where Paul declares that in Christ God has ‘blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing’ (Ephesians 1:3).
It is important to note that Prince’s interpretation of these blessings is cast within the framework of his health and wealth theology. This is because, according to him, there is only one gospel – the prosperity gospel.
Consider this interesting statement by Prince:
I have been accused of being one of those health and wealth ‘prosperity gospel’ preachers. Actually, there is no such thing as a ‘prosperity gospel’. There is only one gospel and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ … On the cross, Jesus bore not just our sins, but also our sicknesses, diseases and infirmities, and ‘by his stripes we are healed’ (Isaiah 53:5) … That’s not all, my friend. On the cross, Jesus bore the curse of poverty! … Let me tell you this: It is the devil who wants you sick and poor, but the God I know has paid a heavy price to redeem you from the curse of sickness and poverty!
In this truly remarkable passage, Prince emphatically insists that there is no such thing as a ‘prosperity gospel’. There is only one gospel of Jesus Christ, he asserts. But in describing this gospel Prince delineates the essential tenets of the prosperity gospel!
Now, Joseph Prince and his antinomian friends are fond of emphasising one aspect of Paul’s writings while totally neglecting the others.
What do I mean by this?
Paul’s letters contain declarations and commands, theology and ethics, indicatives and imperatives. For example, in Ephesians, the apostle sets out the indicatives in chapters 1-3, and delineates the imperatives in chapters 4-6. Similarly, in Romans, Paul delineates his theology in chapters 1-11, and then works out the ethical implications in chapters 12-15.
Paul’s logic is simple but clear: because Christians are such-and-such in Christ, they behave in such-and-such a manner.
The new antinomians bring the former (indicatives, declarations) to the centre-stage of their theology of grace while pushing the latter (imperatives, commands) into the margins. In the same way, the new antinomians, such as Joseph Prince, would amplify Paul’s statements about what Christ has done for us but downplay what the apostle has to say about sinful conduct.
Greek mythology tells the story of Procrustes (also known as Polypemon) who owns two beds in which he will compel his victims to lie. If the victim is short, he will put him on a longer bed and stretch his body to make it fit the bed. Conversely, if the victim happens to be longer than the bed, he would cut off his limbs.
The ‘bed of Procrustes’ or the ‘Procrustean bed’ has been used proverbially to refer to forcing someone or something to fit into an unnatural and predetermined mould.
This is exactly what Joseph Prince and his fellow antinomians have done with God’s Word. They have constructed a Procrustean bed with their theology of grace, and then tried to force Scripture into it.
The bits of the Bible that could not fit were simply lopped off and discarded. (They are either chucked into the ‘old covenant’ box, or simply ignored).
There are therefore striking similarities between Joseph Prince and the ancient heretic Marcion.
Unhappy with the canon of Scripture which includes the Old Testament and some New Testament books that still carried the vestiges of the Old Testament, Marcion deviced his own canon. The Marcionite canon, as it was eventually called, only included the books that can fit into the Procrustean bed of Marcion’s understanding of God.
In the same way, only those bits of Scripture that support Joseph Prince’s antinomian theology of grace are placed in the ‘new covenant’ box. The rest are relegated to the ‘old covenant’ box, which is seldom opened because its contents no longer have any relevance or pertinence for Christians.
Put differently, Scripture is used selectively and arbitrarily to support and substantiate the ‘gospel’ according to Joseph Prince. However, because the ‘gospel’ according to Joseph Prince is not based on the entire counsel of the Word of God, it is a truncated and distorted ‘gospel’.
In reality, it is not the true Gospel at all! In reality, it is a different gospel (Galatians 1:6-8), a false gospel.
Dr Roland Chia
Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine
Trinity Theological College
Theological and Research Advisor
Ethos Institute for Public Christianity