- July 1, 2018
- Posted by: admin
- Category: advance
David S. Lim
This article approaches the issue of nominal Christianity (in short, nominalism) as a challenge faced by the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) since Vatican II (1965), particularly in the Philippines. We will show that it is possible to overcome the common failure of almost all Christendom churches in overcoming the static maintenance religiosity of church structures in order to retain the dynamic spirituality of renewal movements (RMs). Through these RMs, each church member (nominal or not) can be discipled to take their faith seriously by maintaining a close communion with God in their daily life. So based on the recent experiences of spiritual renewal within the Philippine Roman Catholicism herself, we can learn how to make effective and strategic interventions that can avoid the nominalism that has infected the spiritual vitality in the culture and vast constituency of Christendom globally.
In the mid-2017, out of the nearly 2.5 billion Christians in the world, 1,231,050,000 (52%) are Roman Catholics. In the Philippines, in spite of the increased pluralistic religious challenge of various phenomena of Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal denominations and para-church groups as well as non-Trinitarian sects, the number of Roman Catholics has remained at about 82% of the total population (Matheny 2011:206). This indicates that there is internal spiritual vitality in this gigantic and largest Christian denomination, as non-Catholics, esp. Evangelicals grow out of “bounded set” thinking that only those who affirm the confession of “accepting Christ as their personal Lord and Savior” and belong to certain churches are saved.
This paper defines and views nominalism from a “centered set” approach, where there is only a clearly defined center (in our case, commitment to follow Jesus Christ), so involvement in the set is not based on who has crossed the borders, but rather on the proximity to the center and the direction they are moving. Those who are closest to the center will be the most involved with each other. Those who are further out, but who are also moving toward the center, may also be involved with each other as they are drawn in.
“In a centered-set church it is recognized that we are all sinners, all struggling to be the best people we can be. But we also believe that the closer one gets to the center (Christ), the more Christlike one’s behavior should become… No one is considered unworthy of belonging because they happen to be addicted to tobacco, or because they’re not married to their live-in partner,” or because they hold to some doctrine which may be heretical. Thus in this paper, all those who are considered nominal members of the RCC are assumed to be spiritually immature “further out” Christ-believers who need to be discipled to full maturity as committed Christ-followers.
CONTEXT OF ROMAN CATHOLICISM IN THE PHILIPPINES
Social stresses brought about by demographic urbanization and socio-economic globalization have produced a general loss of trust in all institutions – political, economic, socio-cultural and religious. The suffering masses feel that the ruling elites are incapable to transform society as they misuse their authority for their own gain and not for improving the lives of the people. They have lost trust in societal leaders who are seen as arrogant, incompetent and corrupt. Only a few church leaders (lay and clergy) have identified with the people and taken their side against the abuses and misrule of the religious and political hierarchies in the past and up to the present.
Historically, the societal status quo has been the patronage system (still in force today) which has ensured massive poverty and misery resulting from the domination and corruption of political and religious patrons. Only some of the local priests stood by the poor and fought against the colonial powers and the post-independence political dynasties. Hence the people’s allegiance to the church and its practices, like attending masses as often as possible, observing Christmas and Holy Week festivities, have kept their faith in God and hope for a better life alive. Surveys have shown that Filipinos have been among the happiest and most optimistic people on earth, having learned to live with low expectations and to cope with life’s struggles through spontaneous prayer, ritualistic prayers, singing, drinking with friends and a fatalistic (bahala na) attitude, with family and friends to count on when crises strike.
In spite of the reputation of the country to be among the most religious in the world, the hierarchy called the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has called for the “re-evangelization of the people,” recognizing the need to lead them to personal encounters with the living God which results in conversion and discipleship. In a culture where preaching the gospel is accepted and welcomed (even in street corners and buses), it is assumed that all (except for Muslim, folk Buddhist Chinese and animistic tribal minorities) are Christian. But many, especially the poor, have been ignorant or indifferent about their faith.
At the parish level, in spite of the inertia of institutionalization, most clergy have active lay councils who assist them in conducting the regular liturgical services and doing some community services. Its masses continue to center on God, though homilies have become more self-related: the self’s experiences, personal relationship to the divine, self-development and general good feelings. Its ethos has become more ecumenical, which allows members to move from denomination to denomination and to non-denominational and para-church gatherings, looking for that which best meets the individual’s needs. All non-Catholic Trinitarian Christians are treated as “separated brethren” (unless provoked), while non-Trinitarians are considered by all Christians as “cults.”
Folk religiosity. Most RC constituents continue to commit to traditional religious practices, like belonging to the church through baptism, receiving the sacraments for salvation, learning the Catechism, observing the Ten Commandments and participating in devotional practices (like making the sign of the cross when passing through a RC chapel, praying before meals, praying the rosary, wearing scapulars, blessing their vehicles with pictures or statues of Mary, Jesus or the saints, etc.). But the locus of applying tradition is no longer in the “handing down” but in the “picking up” of what the individual wants and how they want them (and often also if they can afford them, like mass weddings have to be sponsored by the rich, since many could not afford “church weddings”). Social folk practices (like processions, fiestas, etc.) that have dominated social life have increased due to mass propagation by television coverage and social media.
Yet though festivals are good for community bonding, they have some major social disadvantages, too. The ever-increasing number of them that have accumulated through the years and the extravagance by which they are celebrated have not only kept the poor, poorer, but also diverted time and resources from the spiritual priorities of value formation and moral living.
Diaspora. About 85% of the RC population have joined the mass migration (approximately 10%) of Filipinos to relocate for citizenship, study or work in other countries. At least 75% of them come from the poorer classes who have entrepreneurially and sacrificially left their beloved families, often in desperation for gaining employment to help their families back home. They have helped in giving life to the parishes where they reside and have been deeply appreciated. Because of their friendly and hospitable nature (common Filipino traits), they have been able to adjust to local cultures and adopt local norms without cross-cultural training.
RENEWAL MOVEMENTS IN ROMAN CATHOLICISM IN THE PHILIPPINES
Even if sociologists a few decades ago predicted the decline of religion in modern societies, in the most RC society in Asia, religiosity has not declined but advanced. She has been transformed by three major renewal movements (RMs) to overcome the inertia and nominalism that typically seep into old religious institutional structures, while maintaining its dominant influence in the culture of Filipino society.
1. Liberation Theology
Due to the impact of Liberation Theology the RCC is engaged in poor communities and helping in the holistic change in these communities. In the early 1970s, a social activist movement sought to transform the country by renewing the church to become “the church of the poor.” Eventually called “theology of struggle” (TOS), it sought to destroy the system of elitism, a new way of becoming a new humanity through liberation from poverty and oppression, which also reflected Filipino spiritual and cultural values. It wanted to overcome Christendom, which is Christian colonialism experienced by Filipinos: “The finest land became the property of the friars because they controlled the sacraments.”
But it soon lost its liberative potential when they allied with Filipino Communists during the Marcos Martial Law regime (1972-1986). When they parted ways due to ideological and strategic differences, the progressives formed Christians for National Liberation to continue their fight for social justice non-violently through civil disobedience. Many of them formed Basic Christian Communities (BCC), but these were often attacked by government forces as Communist fronts and labelled as such in the media. Those accused of being too close to the political left caused dramatic reductions in church income.
Following the educational model of dialogic and participative dynamics in the BCCs, it had the best potential to empower the poor. But its hoped-for dream that the poor will emerge as the avant-grade of social transformation who will take their lives in hand and liberate themselves to put an end to their own misery has faded away. The BCCs have slowly phased out, and some gradually adopted the name of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs), which has become a renewal move of decentralization by the RCC hierarchy in the Philippines.
2. Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs)
Since the Second Plenary Council convened by the CBCP in 1991, the Philippine RCC has officially pledged to become “the church of the poor.” Her idea to re-evangelize the people was to rebuild the parishes from the bottom up, which implicitly follows the critique of the hierarchical church order at the 1979 Puebla Conference. She conceives the church to be a family of God, which resonates with Filipino culture, by forming small groups designed for fostering intimate support networks and community building (as prayer groups), for addressing the needs of the poor, and “for encouraging liberative pastoral practices that generate social commitment, not the emotionalism” (versus charismatic cell groups) “or narrow ideological commitments” (versus the more radical TOS).
This “new way of being church” is being born through the simple faith of Christians and the emerging empowerment of the poor in their struggles to overcome their sufferings. (cf. Boff 1986). The BECs are the centers of evangelization, as people experience church as the family of God created by prayer and the Word of God; they are the nuclei of the church which is the sign and sacrament of salvation. Each BEC belongs to a network at the grassroots level and keeps the church in touch with the struggles of everyday living and also try to end the problem of elite democracy (not democracy per se).
With just more than 1,700 BEC centers in a country of 42,000 barangays/villages, this movement remains peripheral to church and national life. This ecclesiastical decentralization model seems to be not fully embraced by most of the bishops and very lacking in the leadership training of the clergy. In practice, they are kept busy with performing masses and leading religious ceremonies as well as too undermanned to do lay leadership training that will empower the people to overcome the fatalism, vices and values that keep them poor. Meanwhile the poor are still too many and too busy for daily survival, needing at least three livelihoods to have just enough income. With no energy and time for attending religious meetings, they cling to hope and invest in traditional folk practices which actually keep them trapped in poverty.
3. Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR)
The influence of the above two renewal movements has been overshadowed by a third: the CCR movement. Based on many surveys, the Philippines has 88% of Roman Catholics and 94% of non-Catholic Christians (averaging 90% of the Christian population) who consider themselves as those with “charismatic experiences.” As they become open to the work of the Holy Spirit, the faithful view their involvement to be a levelling up beyond their traditional religiosity. They have been empowered to overcome the decay of moral values through the calls for repentance and to recognize God and godliness as the answer to all problems – personal and societal.
Beginning in the early 1970s, starting from the Ligaya ng Panginoon (Joy of the Lord) community, CCR spread mainly through lay initiatives, especially through holding weekend “Life in the Spirit” seminars used in the global neo-Pentecostal (popularly called Charismatic Renewal) movement. These were most effective in bringing spiritual and moral renewal to the middle class families, clans and communities, as they were introduced to the Pentecostal concepts and experiences of being “born again,” “baptism in the Spirit” evidenced by tongue-speaking, as well as healing and deliverance ministries, labelled by some outsiders as “emotionalism.”
Except for El Shaddai, most of the CCR groups emerged and proliferated among the middle class. Though educated to be more rationalistic and scientific with a more secularized worldview, the traditional RC devotional habits have continued to be practiced. Surprisingly, it is El Shaddai’s Mike Velarde who, because of a vision, has prohibited the bringing of icons to their Saturday night gatherings and in their chapter meetings since 2010.
The CCR has also been quite holistic from the start. The grassroots chapters of El Shaddai organized their own savings and investment programs. The largest CCR group, Couples for Christ (CfC) had a social arm called Gawad Kalinga, which eventually outgrew the mother organization and incorporated as a separate CDO. Other CCR leaders formed Christian development organizations (CDOs) – the oldest and largest of which is Tulay sa Pagunlad (Bridge to Progress), which birthed several similar autonomous regional CDOs that specialized in micro-credit and micro-enterprise development programs. In 2004, together with a few other CDOs they formed the Alliance of Philippine. Partners for Enterprise Development (APPEND), which ran as a “party list” candidate and won a seat in the lower house of the Phil. Congress in 2013.
Perhaps most significantly, the CCR enhanced the emergence of new lay leadership who have become more influential than the clergy. Mostly businessmen and corporate executives these lay leaders have led with their personal charisma as well as preaching and teaching gifts. As they teach direct from their personal study of Scriptures, they call for spiritual living that are modelled in the early church with its communitarian and egalitarian lifestyle, similar to pre-modern Filipino life – a past “golden age” when people lived simple and moral lives. Yet they also balance these teachings with emphasis in their links to the institutional church and her pro-life and anti-communist ideology.
CHALLENGE OF POST-MODERN SPIRITUALITY
Looking at present realities, social scientists see that faith and spiritual identities are being developed nowadays in post-modernity and social media contexts, as individuals define themselves in connection with their participation in various social groups resulting in the emergence of various neo-tribes. The rise of neo-tribes should be understood in light of the divergent concepts of self and its fragmentation in late modernity. There has been a “decentering and destabilization of human identity;” there are a “large number of cultural possibilities which compete for the self in the contemporary context,” and there are “multiple sources of contemporary selfhood” which “ground very stable identities as well as many different kinds of identity crisis and fragmentation.”
As post-moderns develop a variety of religious and secularized versions of spirituality, they show that they yearn for a new sense of identity and community as they continue to face a diversity of choices that arise from the forces of globalization, urbanization, and consumerism which foster a sense of hyper-individuality at the expense of true community. This process has been called re-tribalization, and it has brought about the rise of various “postmodern neo-tribes.” This tribal sense of identity surfaces in a variety of ways, including new religious movements as well as alternative cultural events. As this process unfolds with like-minded people within their “neo-tribes,” new life-affirming secondary institutions are created.
Heelas and Woodhead suggest that “the hard and fast distinction between primary and secondary institutions may be breaking down,” and that in the contemporary cultural situation of postmodernity “the image of dwelling in many homes may be more appropriate than that of homelessness.” This turn to the self is best understood in light of a concept of the self that embraces the broader turn to life that draws upon life-enhancing secondary institutions which offer various forms of “alternative spiritualities” as resources for the self, so contemporary seekers can draw upon many of these same spiritualities to set up their numerous “homes.”
In each “home” everyone who participates must do so as a performer, not as a spectator. This is the one basic rule which makes each a “festival” and a “festal culture.” It is “an image of free society, the dinner party, in which all structure of authority dissolves in conviviality and celebration.” And this can be fulfilled in RMs when each meal where Christ is the acknowledged host is “church,” and where each one participates freely to obey him and to serve one another.
LESSONS FROM ROMAN CATHOLIC RENEWAL IN THE PHILIPPINES
Hence there are at least four sociologically recommendable ways by which RMs in the Philippine RCC have shown on how to preserve and sustain spiritual vitality to overcome nominalism in established churches and denominations.
1. Disciple-making in Small Groups
Above all, disciples are made in small meetings, not in large gatherings. This was also the way of disciple-making of Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament: People should be evangelized and discipled to mature spirituality through participation in small groups (maximum of 14-20 adult members each), like BECs and/or (Charismatic-style) prayer and Bible sharing groups. Even when the community leaders have become discipled Christ-followers, each tribe or neo-tribe should develop a biblical religiosity of Spirit-filled love (agape) in the form of networks of small groups. Then as all become increasingly “mature in Christ” (Col.1:28-29; 2 Cor.3:17-18), they will grow in faith and love for Jesus, the Holy Spirit will guide them to become less concerned about religious rituals to appease spirits and demons and religious festivals to celebrate life. Direct and constant communion with God and with a small community of co-disciples is enough for life-long spiritual vitality.
Biblical religiosity will be expressed in a “secularized faith” which simply integrates “prayer to God in Jesus’ Name” and “reflective obedience to the word” (1 Tim.4:4-5) into an ordinary “Micah 6:8” lifestyle with minimal religiosity. To sustain this “love and good works” lifestyle, the only “habits of holiness (or grace)” or “spiritual disciplines” needed are three: (a) hearing God through prayerful meditation (Quiet Time) to turn His word (logos) into a word (rhema) to be obeyed; (b) making their own disciples and being discipled through participating in a “domestic (or house) church” with fellow believers in sharing life and Bible reflections together, and (c) doing friendship evangelism to share what they learn of God and His will with their nominal or non-believing relatives and friends.
This “making disciples in small groups” approach is not only pastorally effective, but also missionally strategic to restrain the natural development of movements to become institutionalized which usually result in nominalism.
2. Disciple-making through Participative Life-sharing
Yet sadly, in spite of renewal and discipling through small groups, the churched including those in Charismatic groups continue to honor and blindly follow strong leaders. The main remedy to advance more confidence in more dialogic and more democratic processes is to highlight the use of interactive discussion style of group dynamics in cellular systems. This is how disciples will learn how to turn conversations and discussions God-ward and Christ-ward. The millennials of our generation have already been inculturated to use post-modernity and its dialogic approach in the new “homes” and neo-tribes that are forming across social media. Will the hierarchy and clergy of the church catch up in using this life-sharing (bottom-up rather than top-down) As for those who would like to maintain big worship gatherings esp. on Sundays, it is best to make the liturgies and homilies more participative and celebrative with a big family and fiesta atmosphere. But they must be alerted to the fact that attendance and participation in such praise and prayer services hardly count for preventing nominalism. In fact, requiring such regimen has been a major cause of dropping out or backsliding into nominalism. Usually only 15-20% of church-goers live up to the heavy social and moral demands of “cell churches,” like attending seminars, joining various church activities, helping in church ministries, giving tithes and offerings, etc. Making people feel guilty that they are not fulfilling such requirements of “good churchmanship” may be bad for their spiritual health, esp. for the poor who cannot afford the dress code and transportation cost for “church-going”.
3. Transformational Development through Social Entrepreneurship
Further to prevent nominalism, the faithful must be discipled to mature spirituality so that they trust solely in our all-loving God and Him alone. People whose faith begin by contextually adapting to the majority religion (or non-religion) in their community must ultimately grow their faith into a simple yet profound religiosity, with each person living a “love God and love everyone” lifestyle that embodies the Great Commandment in obedience to his will (Mt.22:36-40; Rom.12:1-2), called “transformational development” or “integral mission” nowadays.
So discipled church members will grow “unto Christ,” liberated from sin to become more generous, more caring towards and sharing with their neighbors, which is the “agape” law of Christ (Gal.5:13-23; 6:1-2; Rom.13:8-10). They will develop a Christ-like, disciple-making lifestyle of “love and good works” (Heb.10:24; Eph.2:10; Col.1:28-29), as salt and light in the world (Mt.5:13-16; Phil.14-16), without having to “act religious” or do meaningless religious rituals (Jn.4:21-24; Lk.10:25-37; Mt.6:1-18). They are discipled in small groups to do acts of kindness and justice locally and globally (Mt.25:31-46, cf. Mic.6:8) in their various postmodern “homes.”
This biblical religiosity translates into discipling and transforming the global economic system. Many CDOs are already leading in building the third (other than capitalism and socialism) alternative economic order called the Solidarity Economy, which equips and empowers the poor through social entrepreneurship and fair trade, so each person can have their own land (Lev. 25) and their own “vine and fig tree” (Mic.4:4).
3. Evangelization and Discipling/Transformation of Asia and the World
Yet there must also be a big global vision to excite the faith and love of religious adherents. Asia remains the least evangelized continent with vast populations who are perishing and have no access to the Gospel. And around the world, there are still more than 6,000 people groups who have yet to hear the Name Jesus Christ. With the dominant majority of the Filipino diaspora (about 12 million today and counting), the CBCP can and should lead in fulfilling Pope John Paul II’s challenge for the Filipino church to be “God’s light for Asia.” As members of the only major Christian (= RC) country in Asia, Filipino Christ-followers must be involved in the evangelization of Asia and beyond.
The Filipino RC diaspora have been effective in bringing renewal to the various parishes wherever they have gone to work or live overseas. Those who belong to the CCR have extended new chapters of their groups in the countries they go to. But they have been less effective in working cross-culturally. Some groups have tried to send cross-cultural missionaries, but have had poor results due to lack of orientation and training. Hopefully they will reactivate such missional programs, with or without the guidance of the CBCP.
Since 2009, the Evangelical-led Philippine Missions Mobilization Movement has been working to equip and commission a million diaspora Filipinos by 2020 to serve as tentmaking missionaries wherever they live and work overseas, in time for Filipinos to celebrate the 5th Centennial of Christianity (the planting of the Cross and the baptism of first converts in March, 1521) among our people. Renewed RCs can join and lead in setting up an Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Assistance Center in each parish to cater to the holistic needs of OFWs and their families, and thereby be positioned to train returning OFWs on how to make disciples in small groups when they return abroad.
We have shown that by God’s grace, old denominations can perpetuate continuous revival by preventing nominalism through multiple renewal movements. Those interested in this thesis should carefully study the various revival or renewal movements throughout church history. By following the four lessons learned and recommended in this article, may the RCC with the CBCP lead her constituency and God’s whole church with zero-nominal and fully discipled membership to fulfill God’s whole mission in God’s whole world.
 Todd Johnson, et al, “Christianity 2017: Five Hundred Years of Protestant Christianity,” International Bulletin of Mission Research 41.1 (January 2017): 48.
In 2011, the RCC in the Phil. is reported to be 82.3% of the population, with 8,966 priests in 3,153 parishes, in International Bulletin of Missionary Research 37.1 (January 2013): 31.
Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, Shaping of Things to Come : Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publisher, 2003), 49.
 Including the most recent by Gallup poll: http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2018/01/02/PH-3rd-happiest-country-in-world.html, accessed February 1, 2018.
 Most popular ones are the annual processions of the Black Nazarene, the Santo Niño (Holy Child), Our Lady of Peñafrancia, and Our Lady of Manaoag. Most gory would be penitents who get themselves nailed literally on the cross during Holy Friday to fulfil their vows made during a crisis in their life.
Eleazar Fernandez, Toward a Theology of Struggle (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1994), 134.
Cf. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Seabury Press, 1971).
Cf. Leonardo Boff, Ecclesiogenesis (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1986).
Paul Matheny, “Ferment at the Margins: Philippine Ecclesiology under Stress,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 25.4 (October 2011): 206. Among the major CCR groups are: Couples for Christ (with its subsidiaries: Singles for Christ, Handmaids of the Lord, CfC Youth for Christ, Kids for Christ) – the largest (perhaps 4.5 million worldwide); El Shaddai – perhaps about 3 million strong nationwide, and with branches worldwide; Bukas Loob sa Dios (BLD) – founded by Antonio de los Reyes, whose son “J.C.” ran as the presidential candidate of the Kapatiran Party (in 2004 and 2010) that has RC’s social teachings as basis of their governance platform; Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP); Ligaya ng Panginoon (Joy of the Lord); The Light of Jesus; Shalom Foundation; and Servant Community.
From the start, some Evangelicals joined as members of these CCR groups and taught that these renewed Catholics or “converts to Christ” need not leave their Roman Catholic identity. This is similar to the culture-sensitivity of “insider movements” mentioned in Lausanne’s Cape Town Commitment, Part IIC, Sec. 4.
inda Woodhead, “Theology and the Fragmentation of the Self.” International Journal of Systematic Theology 1.1 (March 1999): 54.
Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead, “Homeless minds today?” in Linda Woodhead, ed., Peter Berger and the Study of Religion (London & New York: Routledge, 2002), 70.
This is highlighted in Howard Snyder’s study of historical renewal movements (Pietism, Moravianism & early Methodism) in his book Signs of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989), which confirm the findings of L. P. Gerlach and V. H. Vine, People, Power, Change: Movements of Social Transformation (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970), esp. that movements are founded on cellular organization.
A few RC theologians have suggested that BECs are “the new way of being church” and do not need to have institutional ties with the Vatican (Rosemary Ruether, “The Free Church Movement in Contemporary Catholicism,” in Martin Marty and Dean Peerman, eds., New Theology, Vol. 6 (New York: Macmillan, 1969), 69-87; cf. Boff 1986). This is the ecclesiology of the global house church movement, which I view to be “the 4th wave of the Spirit,” where only simple expressions of faith are needed (David Lim, “Asia’s House Church Movements Today.” Asian Missions Advance 52 (July 2016): 7-12. Also at: www.asiamissions.net/asias-house-church-movements-today/.
This was clearly discovered in 2008 by Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago when they made a study of the impact of their programs. See http://www.christiancoachingcenter.org/index.php/russ-rainey/coachingchurch2/..
David S. Lim
Dr. David S. Lim is the Executive Director of China Ministries International-Philippines, that recruits Filipino missionaries for China. He serves as a key member of the Facilitation Team that seeks to mobilize and train 200,000 Filipino missionaries to reach the unreached peoples of the world. He had previously served as Academic Dean at Asian Theological Seminary(Philippines) and Oxford Centre for Mission Studies(U.K.), and now serves as President of two schools: Asian School for Development and Cross-Cultural Studies (ASDECS) and Asian Center for English
Studies(ACES). His Ph.D in the New Testaments was earned from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, U.S.A.