Monday, December 25, 2006

T-Chat: Scripture and Revelation 2

The Doctrine of Scripture and Revelation (session 2).

T-Chat is a theological chit-chat session among lay Christians with the interest to know and explore more about different aspects in Christianity.

Jason Leong will facilitates us through these questions:
What is Scripture? How are we relate to Scripture? What is revelation? How did God revealed to us? What types of revelation are there?


Date: Tuesday, 2 January 2007
Time: 4.30- 6.30pm
Venue: North Bridge Centre, 420, North Bridge Road, #05-11
Cost: Free

Contact person: Joshua 92366672

Friday, December 01, 2006

Notes: Doctrine of Scripture and Revelation (Part 1)

Doctrine of Scripture and Revelation
*This script has been paraphrased and annotated for further clarity


The questions:
1. What is Revelation?
2. What is Scripture?
3. Preservation of Scripture
4. How do we understand Scripture?

Note 1: Revelation

(a) Revelation is something being revealed or shown. It involves an actor and an audience.
(b) Generally, theology distinguishes between two kinds of revelation: (1) Special Revelation (Scripture), and (2) General Revelation (Nature).
(c) Consideration of the distinction
- Different medium (general – nature, reason ; special – scripture)
- Different content (general – theism in general (Rom 1) ; special – salvific)
(d) Both may be misunderstood or misinterpreted by observers. Any understanding and conviction from revelation relies on God and His sovereign grace and mercy.

Interaction:
Joanna: How about those who haven't heard about the gospel? Is there a possibility for them to be saved?

Group consolidated response: God in His sovereignty acts in order to impart saving grace and knowledge to save the elect. This may come through ordinary means (through the reading of the Word, preaching, etc.) or extraordinary means (visions, etc.).

It is doubtful if extraordinary means are still being used though. It is important to distinguish between (1) what God is able to do; (2) what the scriptures have affirmed as not possible; and (3) what is happening in reality. In terms of (1) and (2), it is not impossible for extraordinary means. Considering the biblical pattern, (3) is questionable.

Note 2: Scripture

(a) There seems to be three elements to scriptural revelation:
1) Theophany – Manifestation of God
2) Prophecy – God's communication with Man / the record of theophany
3) Miracle – Authentication of prophecy

Interaction:
Joanna: Isn't miracle the same as theophany?
Jason: Both miracle and theophany are supernatural; A theophany is miraculous, but a miracle is not necessarily a theophany.

Miracles would include events such as healing of the sick, raising the dead, & walking on water. These are phenomena that are not observable consistently in and through nature. Theophanies are personal or corporate supernatural encounters with God (e.g burning bush; pillar of fire).

Note 3: The Canon of Scripture

(a) Some criteria used by the church in seeking to recognize NT canon [397 A.D. 3rd Council of Carthage].
1) Apostolic – authored by immediate apostles or close associates of the apostles.
2) Catholic – widely circulated among the early Christian assemblies.
3) Orthodoxy – does not contradict the faith of the early Christian tradition.
4) Witness of the Holy Spirit

(b) The importance of faith and tradition in affirming the canon of Scripture. Godly men across all times have had their doubts. The affirmation of the Church is one of the objective ways in which we can see the witness of the Holy Spirit.

(c) Is the apocryphal part of sacred scripture? They were only affirmed as canon by the Roman Catholic Church in the Council of Trent (counter-reformation?). Christians of old have always said it was good to read them. Post-reformation Christians tend to flee from them. Balance: probably ok to read them, but the affirmation of the church is that they are not inspired scripture.

(d) Consideration of other purported forms of revelation:
1) Continuing revelation
[discussion ensued on whether God’s guidance today could be considered revelation] Distinguishing between providential guidance and revelation; Nelson: Distinguishing between new revelation and illumination.
2) Newly discovered books
Highly unlikely. Room for fraud is very high.

Note 4: Preservation of Scripture

(a) It would be irrelevant to talk about the books if the content is not settled. It is important to affirm that God has preserved the content of Scripture, yet recognize the reality of manuscript discrepancies.

(b) Verbal Plenary Preservation swings to one extreme and affirms that God has perfectly preserved Scripture. This is a pious view, but is it realistic?

(c) Manuscripts exist that assure us that the manuscripts of scripture are pretty accurate copies. Joshua Woo: The Chester Beatty Papyri (late 2nd century)? Rylands Papyrus (early 2nd century)? Josh McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict and Lee Strobel's Case for Christ contains quite a list.

Conclusion:
God communicates to us in revelation. The most important means by which He reveals Himself is through His Word. The Church has affirmed through time that the 66 books we accept is His Word. We affirm He has preserved His Word, although there are manuscript problems do not affect our faith in a major way.

In all these things, we depend on God’s sovereignty and grace to reveal Himself Without that, we can have no knowledge of Him.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

T-CHAT: Scripture and Revelation

The Doctrine of Scripture and Revelation (session 1).

T-Chat is a theological chit-chat session among lay Christians with the interest to know and explore more about different aspects in Christianity.

Jason Leong will facilitates us through these questions:
What is Scripture? How are we relate to Scripture? What is revelation? How did God revealed to us? What types of revelation are there?

Date: Wednesday, 15 November 2006
Time: 7.30pm-9.30pm
Venue: Orchard Road Presbyterian Church (3 mins walk from Dhoby Ghaut MRT station)
Cost: Free

Contact person: Joshua 92366672

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Evangelical Resurgence

Where We Are and How We Got Here
by Mark A. Noll

50 years ago, evangelicals were a sideshow of American culture. Since then, it's been a long, strange trip. Here's a look at the influences that shaped the movement.

Historically, evangelicalism has had integrity when it maintains the substance of classical Christian faith; it has exerted influence and enjoyed a broad appeal when it responds effectively to impulses within its host cultures. When evangelicals think only about honoring their heritage, they easily lose sight of the gospel imperative to evangelize and to be salt and light in the world. Conversely, when they think only about effective witness and responding to urgent psychological needs, they easily lose sight of the gospel imperative to preserve the truth in righteousness.

In some earlier eras, the balance of theological integrity and cultural sensitivity moved mountains. At other times, loyalty to traditions led to separatistic stagnation, or lust for cultural relevance perverted the gospel into Christianity-lite.

During the first half of the 20th century, the stress had shifted toward preserving traditions. At the middle of the 20th century, evangelicals began to move back toward a balance.

But have evangelicals today moved too far? Has an overemphasis on preserving tradition been replaced by an overemphasis on connecting to the culture? For such supremely important questions, it is, of course, too early for a historical assessment. When the balance shifts too strongly to one without the other, it is merely sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. But an evangelical resurgence that balances traditional faith and cultural relevance sounds a trumpet of salvation to the world.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Morality And God

From Edwin: I know most of us will probably be too far away to attend this lecture. But I thought of posting it anyway for those interested in keeping up with Swinburne's apologetics.

Professor Richard Swinburne will be delivering a lecture this Thurs at Old College, University of Edinburgh, entitled, "Morality and God." Based at Oxford University, Swinburne is arguably one of the foremost modern Christian apologist, arguing in his many books and articles that the Christian faith is rational and coherent in a rigorously philosophical sense.

Here's the lecture abstract:

"The existence of God would make no difference to the fact that there are moral truths. It is obligatory to keep your promises and tell the truth; and good to feed the starving and educate the illiterate - even if there is no God. But the existence of God makes a great difference to what are the moral truths. Because he created us from nothing and keeps us in being with all the good things of life, God is our supreme benefactor. We have limited obligations to human benefactors; and so very great obligations to our supreme benefactor. Hence he can command us to do many actions which otherwise would not be obligatory; and his command will make them obligatory. He may also command us to do actions which are obligatory anyway, and his command will make doing those actions doubly obligatory. He may also inform us about what are the moral truths (e.g about euthanasia and abortion) which do not depend on his will, but which we are too biased or stupid to discover. Among his reasons for creating new moral obligations are to make us naturally inclined to do good actions (even when otherwise they would not be obligatory), and so to form a holy character."

Total Truth


Adi wrote these brief appetising reflections on Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity
...a really good book (even if I have not finished reading it), which I think should be read by any Christian, whom Jesus called as the salt and light of the world. This book will help us to go out of the sacred/secular, private/public, or fact/value split, which has been dominating our world today--without us realising it--and has prevented us to let our faith speak to every aspects of life. As emphasized by the author, many Christians are satisfied with being a Christian in their work, and never bother to have a biblical framework on the work itself. Some perhaps have realised that it is not enough just being a Christian in their work, but they don't know how to craft a Christian worldview, a Christian philosophy, on their work. Hence it is the call of this book for all Christians to live out our faith in every areas of life, for in fact if we truly believe our faith to be the truth, then we will see it as a total world- and life-view.

The fact that we do not regard our faith as total truth--and so we lock our faith in a private compartment of our lives--runs contrary to the Scriptures. For if God is the Lord of all creation, then all creation--every single area of life--must bow to His Word. Furthermore, the Bible does not talk about the redemption of souls only, but also the whole creation. We, the redeemed people, are God's agents to bring redemption unto this world. If we truly believe that the Word of God shines upon every aspect of our lives, then, we should have a Christian philosophy of everything, yes, everything under the sun.

What really matters is then to have a correct view of our faith as a worldview, and to let it shape everything that we do. "The most effective work ... is done by ordinary Christians fulfilling God's calling to reform culture within their local spheres of influence--their families, churches, schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, professional organizations, and civic institutions. In order to effect lasting change, ... we need to develop a Christian worldview" (Total Truth, p.19).

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Creation Care

Activism without theology is blind, Theology without activism is lame.

An Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation

The Earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof - Psalm 24:1

As followers of Jesus Christ, committed to the full authority of the Scriptures, and aware of the ways we have degraded creation, we believe that biblical faith is essential to the solution of our ecological problems.

Because we worship and honor the Creator, we seek to cherish and care for the creation.

Because we have sinned, we have failed in our stewardship of creation.
Therefore we repent of the way we have polluted, distorted, or destroyed so much of the Creator's work.

Because in Christ God has healed our alienation from God and extended to us the first fruits of the reconciliation of all things, we commit ourselves to working in the power of the Holy Spirit to share the Good News of Christ in word and deed, to work for the reconciliation of all people in Christ, and to extend Christ's healing to suffering creation.

Because we await the time when even the groaning creation will be restored to wholeness, we commit ourselves to work vigorously to protect and heal that creation for the honor and glory of the Creator---whom we know dimly through creation, but meet fully through Scripture and in Christ.

We and our children face a growing crisis in the health of the creation in which we are embedded, and through which, by God's grace, we are sustained. Yet we continue to degrade that creation.

These degradations of creation can be summed up as
1) land degradation; 2) deforestation;
3) species extinction; 4) water degradation; 5) global toxification;
6) the alteration of atmosphere; 7) human and cultural degradation.

Read on

Love Song Dedications

Ah Beng called up the radio to dedicate a love song to Ah Lian.

What song will he choose? That depends on whether he is a fan of...

Calvinism: "I knew I loved you before I met you" (Savage Garden)

Creationism: "Making Love Out of Nothing At All" (Air Supply)

Open theism: "I don't know much, but I know I love you" (Aaron Neville)

Wittgenstein: "It's only words... words are all I have to take your heart away" (Boyzone)

Foundationalism: "Girl you have to show me why this is not our time, When all the evidence is saying that you're wrong" (Cliff Richards - Somethin' Is Goin' On)

Pelagius: "She went to heaven so I gotta be good, so I can see my baby when i leave this world" (Pearl Jam - Where O Where Have My Baby Gone?)

Quaker: "I feel the earth move under my feet, I feel the skies tumbling down" (Martika)

NT Wright: "Heaven is a place on earth!" (Berlinda Carlisle)

Choo Thomas: "Nobody gets too much heaven no more.." (Bee Gees)

Emergent: "And life's a journey, not a destination" (Aerosmith)

Above All Earthly Powers

Today, I drove to Bethlehem Baptist North Campus for a combined church service at Bethlehem Baptist - a special "welcome-home!" gathering for John Piper's return from sabbatical in UK! It was under the open sky, a gentle breeze blowing

Piper's sermon was based on Jesus' parable on "The Pharisee and Tax Collector" (Luke 18: 9-14, biblical teaching on justification by faith. One of Piper's upcoming books may be in response of NT Wright's views on the topic...

The Pharisee was not a proto-Pelagian trying to pull himself up by his own moral bootstraps. Instead he attributes his moral achievement (he never robbed, or unfaithful to his wife - quite 'authentic' lifestyle!) and religious accomplishment (fasted twice a week and tithed!) as being enabled by God!

This guy is not a pelagian who thinks he can make it without God's help. He even thanked God for helping him to be different from others.

But his fatal mistake is that he considers that God-enabled righteousness as the GROUND of his standing before God, the Judge.

The tax collector, on the other hand, is a sinner. But he recognizes his own sinfulness and looks to God for mercy. And Jesus says, the tax collector goes home justified (declared as righteous) rather than the pharisee (who stands condemned)

This message is hazardous to popular notions of God works. We like the idea that 'authentic' people who live 'good lives' get saved.

But it is spiritually dangerous to put before the Judge our 'grace-imparted' deeds as the basis for being put right with God. None of us could stand before His holy light. No one.

All of us need to come before God with faith in the blood-bought righteousness of Jesus Christ. And Him alone.

Let our hope and the hope of others be on nothing less than the Christ and His wrath-absorbing work on the cross.

We sang a wonderful hymn as well:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea:
a great High Priest, whose name is Love,
who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on his hands,
my name is written on his heart;
I know that while in heaven he stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see him there
who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died,
my sinful soul is counted free;
for God, the Just, is satisfied
to look on him and pardon me.

Behold him there! the risen Lamb!
My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
the great unchangeable I AM,
the King of glory and of grace!

One with himself, I cannot die;
my soul is purchased by his blood;
my life is hid with Christ on high,
with Christ, my Savior and my God.


After waiting in line for 20 minutes or so, I managed to meet Piper himself, shook hands, took photos and chatted for a while. Even passed him a card on The Agora ministry just in case he would like to keep in touch.

Marvin, he also mentioned what a wonderful preacher you are! Wow, that means a lot coming from a master preacher.

Unfortunately i wont be around for the conference in September "The Supremacy of God in a postmodern world". Aiyor.

But the conference theme and speaker line-up sounds extremely promising:

Our aim is to call the church to a radical and very old vision of the Man, Jesus Christ—fully God, fully sovereign, fully redeeming by his substitutionary, wrath-absorbing death, fully alive and reigning, fully revealed for our salvation in the inerrant Holy Bible, and fully committed to being preached with human words and beautifully described with doctrinal propositions based on biblical paragraphs.

We love Dorothy Sayers’ old saying, “The Dogma is the Drama.” We think the post-propositional, post-dogmatic, post-authoritative “conversation” is post-relevant and post-saving.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

C.R.Y. (Christian Response to Yoga) Seminar

The Singapore Centre for Evangelism & Missions, together with Bedok Methodist Church, will be jointly organising a seminar on Christian Response to Yoga (C.R.Y.).

C.R.Y. (Christian Response to Yoga) Seminar
What is Yoga?
How do we approach Yoga with a Christian Perspective?
Does Yoga have any thing to do with religion?
Can I practice Yoga as a Christian?
Are these your questions?

Date: Sat 28th October, 2006
Time: 2.00pm to 5.30pm
Venue: Bedok Methodist Church
Speaker: Ashok Kumar (pl see attachment for details)
Registration Fee: $15/- (includes notes & refreshment)

Closing Date: 22nd Oct '06

Transport will be provided from the Tanah Merah and Bedok MRT stations to BMC.
Jointly organised by Bedok Methodist Church and SCEM (Singapore Centre for Evangelism and Missions). Please register with your name, contact no. email address. Mailto:scem@scem.info

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Doubting Thomas

"If ours is an examined faith, we should be unafraid to doubt... There is no believing without some doubting, and believing is all the stronger for understanding and resolving doubt". Os Guinness, God in the Dark

"Any Christian in touch with thinking people outside the church must be saddened by the large numbers of people who claim to have "lost their faith". In my experience, many of them lacked little in terms of orthodoxy or experience but never understood why their faith was true. Caught with neither a foundation nor a framework for their faith, they found university level questions puncturing their sunday-school-level faith." (p. 82) Read On

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Reasonable Faith Camp 2006

Shopping with my married colleagues, I discover a whole new universe I never knew existed. Whole "Baby r'us" stores devoted to baby products... and these fellas are so willing to spend jaw-dropping amount of money on branded baby car-seats. And I marvel at how parents care for their children by providing for their needs - clothes, foods, toys, luxuries etc.

But what about their spiritual & intellectual needs? Do we cultivate that?

if i have a kid (teenage and above) I'd send him to the Ravi Zacharias Ministry (based in Singapore) camp in October 27 – 29 2006, Friday – Sunday at Hotel Puri, Malacca.

Contact info:
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
Tel: +65 6247 7695
Fax: +65 6247 9052
dorothy_low@rzimap.com.sg

Just look at the mouth-watering topics:

Movie discussions on 'Reel World', "The Hero" and "Melinda, Melinda" wud train us to appreciate, understand and experience and critique movies from a christian outlook

Spiritual disciplines like developing 'soul friends', comtemplation/reflections...

Scripture study on Genesis - focus on our Identity/Sexuality, Purpose and Destiny

Eye-opening Workshops on New Age, Islam, What is a Worldview? etc.

What I'd like to rave about, however, is the sessions Dr Clive Chin (Singapore Bible College) will be doing - he taught me systematic theology 2 months ago, and definitely a humble, mission-minded, sacrificial and well-read scholar I look up to...

He'd be doing a session on "Biblical truth in a postmodern setting" (be conversant on postfoundationalism and stuffs like that, how it affects mission of church)

and "Gospel as Theo-drama" (where Clive will be drawing on the speech-act hermeneutics of Kevin Vanhoozer in this one, if u like 'drama of doctrine' in a nutshell, this session alone is worth the camp fees :)

Dun miss it! And bring ur frens/kids along...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Francis Collins Found God

The atheist-scientist Francis Collins, who led the international Human Genome Project converted to evangelical Christianity.

In his new book 'The Language of God', the classical debate between science and religion is being examined. He challenges both, atheistic scientists to contemplate the plausibility of the existence of God through their vocation, and fellow evangelicals to reconsider their opposition towards evolution. Dr. Collins is a theistic-evolutionist.

For more juice:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2220484,00.html

Monday, July 10, 2006

Doctrine of Man/Sin - Reformed Evangelical Course 归正福音巡回课程 -人论/罪论 2006



Dear all, there will be an upcoming course on the Doctrine of Man and Sin on the 15th - 19th August. For those interested please register with STEMI Singapore.

人论/罪论:人对自我的认识 2006 归正福音巡回课程

本课程将略述中国哲学中的人性观、圣经人性观、神形象之含义、三元论之论述与批判、灵魂之来源、亚当的堕落与罪的归算、原罪的含义。课程以互动方式进行,也将解答神学难题。

日期 :8月15日至19日(星期二-星期六)
地点 :桥北中心 420 North Bridge Road,#05-05,North Bridge Centre,Singapore 188727
讲员 :李健安博士主讲 (中文授课)
报名费 :新币120元

只限80位名额!有意自我提升的弟兄姐妹,请尽快报名上课。
详情请上网游览 http://www.stemi.org.sg/2005/

Monday, July 03, 2006

Expository preaching on difficult passages in the Bible

Timetable


Have you ever encountered difficult passages in the Bible? Are you looking for answers to difficult questions in faith? STEMI Singapore is starting a new series of expository preaching on difficult passages in the Bible.
Please do encourage friends to attend. Below are the details

Difficult Passages In The Bible
2006 The Reformed Evangelical Expository Preaching Series, Singapore.
Date : Sunday (Re: Attachment)
Time : 7.30pm Location : Newton Life Church, 200 Keng Lee Road, S308410
Speaker : Rev Dr Stephen Tong
Interpreter : Elder Yong Teck Meng (Mandarin with English Translation)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Faith Without Works (Agora Meeting)

The upcoming Agora meeting will be held on June 13 (instead of June 14). Below are the details:

Time: 7.30pm to 9.30pm
Venue: Orchard Road Presbyterian Church
Topic - Faith without works is dead: Professing Christ in a Secular World
Speaker: Elder Yong Teck Meng

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Agora Meeting (June 14)

What is the Christian duty on earth? Who is my neighbour and how should i live and exemplify my faith out in this fallen world? Is social work mutually exclusive with the Gospel or is it complementary? Is faith without actions still faith...?

Speaker: Elder Yong Teck Meng
Topic: "Faith without works is dead..."
Date: June 14, 2006
Time: 7.30pm - 9.30 pm
Location: Orchard Road Presbyterian Church

(Mr Yong is the Chairman of Habitat for Humanity Singapore, an international non-profit, Christian housing ministry as well as the translator of Dr Stephen Tong's evangelistic ministry in SIngapore)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Theology 101

Are you trying to understand God in a deeper level?
Or are you interested to know what are some of the things lay-Christians/preachers/pastors/missionaries/theologians talk over their tea-breaks? Please join us to this introductory discussion on Theology. These 2 sessions will cover 'what is theology' and 'how has theology developed'.



Topic: Theology 101.1- What is Theology?
Time: 7:45pm - 9:15pm
Venue: Orchard Road Presbyterian Church
Date: 30th May 2006 (Tuesday)

Topic: Theology 101.2- How has Theology developed?
Time: 7:45pm - 9:15pm
Venue: Orchard Road Presbyterian Church
Date: 6th June 2006 (Tuesday)

Speaker: Rev. David Burke is senior minister of the English congregation at Orchard Road Presbyterian Church. He was a denominational Director of Christian Education and a theological college lecturer with the Presbyterian Church of Australia. He is now completing a doctorate in education at the University of Technology Sydney.


For any enquiries: Joshua 90428098

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Surrogate Pregnancy

Strait Times (23th May 2006) covers a news about a mid-30's Singaporean Chinese Christian couple that 'rented' an Indian woman's womb to bear their child. The couple flew to India last week, when their baby was born, to do a genetic check whether the baby identifies with them genetically.

Indian experts implanted the husband's sperm and the wife's egg into the surrogate mother's uterus and she is paid about SGD 10,000 to carry the baby for a full term. As soon as the child was born, he/she (gender of the baby wasn't enclosed in the report) was separated from the surrogate mum to prevent any bonding.

Prior to this resort, the couple went through 5 in-vitro fertilization but weren't successful. Singapore laws forbid the practices of surrogate mum, thus the couple took such measure in India. When interviewed by Strait Times, the couple thanked God for the child.

More can be read here:
http://news.sawf.org/Lifestyle/12867.aspx
http://onlypunjab.com/fullstory2k5-insight-news-status-22-newsID-72845.html
Strait Times issue 23th May 2006.

Can a human's body subject to such function? Any medical ethics involved? Renting another's womb to bear our child is a breakthrough in technology. No such things in biblical days. As technology advanced, there are wonders can be attained; some are positive, some are negative, others 'neutral'. Is this a 'neutral' achievement? How does image of God (imago Dei) fit into such phenomena?

Economically, this would open up a market for such 'transaction'. Human's bodies are being priced. Would surrogate mum being equates as the same as prostitution, where bodies are being used for economical reason? Or should this practice be justified by bringing in the 'be fruitful and multiply' mandate into picture?

What are your opinions?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Fire Conference Singapore 2006



Meetings that will transform your life even greater! Evangelistic evening meetings open to the public with prayer for the sick. Asia Pacific Fire Conference, 2006:

Date: 30th June (Friday) and 1st July (Saturday) 2006
Venue: Singapore Indoor Stadium
Speakers: Reinhard Bonnke, Peter van den Berg, and Paul Balache.

For more info: Fire Conference

Reformed Evangelical Fellowship Meeting

Date: April 20
Venue: North Bridge Road Complex (#05-11)
Time: 1 pm to 3 pm
Speaker: Elder Yong Teck Meng

For more details, visit www.stemi.org.sg

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bukan Yudas Yang Kita Kenal

Bukan Yudas Yang Kita Kenal (The Judas We Never Knew)

Menurut Injil Yudas yang baru diterbitkan, Yesus telah bersubahat dengan pengikut yang membelotnya. Haruskah kita mempercayai Injil Yudas?

Oleh Collin Hansen : 6 April 2006 4.30 petang
Diterjemahkan Oleh "10Sen"

Terjemahan artikel Christianity Today


Injil Yudas itu muncul kembali ke dunia moden buat kali pertamanya pada hari Khamis di Washington D.C. Apakah kandungan Injil Yudas itu? Pertama sekali, ianya jelas bukan sebuah Injil. Ia juga bukan dikarang oleh Yudas. Tetapi ia memang penting, malah ia merupakan penemuan teks luar-alkitabiah yang terpenting dalam 60 tahun yang belakang ini, sepertimana seorang eksekutif National Geographic Society telah memberitahu The New York Times

Teks ini, iaitu satu salinan dokumen yang tertulis semasa kurun kedua selepas Masihi, menampakkan beberapa berita yang besar. Rupa-rupanya, Yudas bukanlah pengikut jahat yang mengkhianati Yesus dan telah membunuh diri kerana kesal. Tidak, Yudas ini hanya menurut kehendak Yesus. Kononnya, Yesus telah menerangkan kepada Yudas bahawa dia akan “melebihi semua [pengikut-pengikut Yesus]” sekiranya dia menyebabkan Yesus disalib.

Ini tentu akan mengubah beberapa perkara, sekiranya benar. Tetapi “berita” ini bukanlah sebab Injil Yudas itu bernilai. Sebaliknya, kerana teks ini, kita dapat mengesahkan dengan lanjut apa yang telahpun diketahui umum mengenai kaum Gnostik – orang yang mempunyai kefahaman menyeleweng yang dikutuk oleh ketua-ketua gereja awal seperti Irenaeus. Jangan keliru dengan kemunculan nama Yesus dan Yudas. Ini bukan teks Kristian. Injil Yudas tidak tersebar sehingga 150 tahun selepas Yesus mangkat. Dalam erti kata lain: Teks baru ini tidak memberi maklumat baru mengenai hubungan Yesus dengan Yudas lebih daripada wayang “Jesus Christ Superstar”.

Sehingga penerbitan Injil Yudas dan teks kaum Gnostik yang ditemui beberapa dekad dulu berhampiran Nag Hammadi di Mesir, kita banyak mempelajari mengenai fahaman Gnostik melalui penulisan apologis Kristian. Kerana Injil Yudas, kita sekarang dapat menentusahkan dua ajaran Gnostik yang utama. Menurut ramai tokoh ajaran Gnostik, Yesus tidak menjelma dalam tubuh manusia, atau dia mahu meninggalkan tubuh jasmaniahnya secepat mungkin. Yesus amat mahu kembali ke dunia roh. Dan Yudas telah menolong dalam pencapaian hasrat itu.

(“Engkau akan mengorbankan manusia yang menjadi jubah aku”, Yesus yang “rohaniah” memberitahu Yudas di dalam dokumen ini). Tambahan, kaum Gnostik percaya bahawa hanya segelintir yang terpilih sahaja yang akan benar-benar menghayati pengetahuan khas mengenai syurga. Injil Yudas mengandungi ajaran bahawa hanya Yudas, pengikut kesayangan Yesus, memahami sepenuhnya.

Kepercayaan Kristian jauh berbeza dengan ajaran Gnostik. Yesus, sebenarnya Tuhan dan sebenarnya manusia, telah mengalami kelahiran di bangsal dan kematian pada salib. Dia telah berkongsi dalam kemanusiaan kita, “supaya dengan kematiannya, ia dapat menghancurkan Iblis yang menguasai kematian” (Ibrani 2:24). Khabar ini bukan terbatas kepada segolongan kecil yang akan mencapai gnosis (pengetahuan khas) sahaja. Injil itu adalah “… kekuatan Allah untuk menyelamatkan semua orang yang percaya; pertamanya orang Yahudi, dan bangsa lain juga.” (Rom 1:16)

Walau bagaimanapun, ada yang mendakwa bahawa Injil Yudas dan teks-teks Gnostik yang lain membawa kesangsian terhadap kefahaman Kristian ortodoks. “Apabila penemuan-penemuan ini beransur-ansur tersebar ke gereja-gereja dan universiti-universiti,” pemberita New York Times John Noble Wilford dan Laurie Goodstein menulis, “terbentuklah generasi Kristian baru yang menganggap kitab Bible bukan Firman Tuhan, tetapi adalah hasil ciptaan angkatan kuasa politik dan sejarah yang telah memutuskan apakah teks yang sepatutnya dikanonkan, [1] dan mana yang patut disunting keluar. Kerana sebab ini, penemuan-penemuan tersebut telah terbukti amat merisaukan kepada ramai penganut Kristian.”

Siapakah penganut-penganut agama Kristian yang amat risau itu? Kita kurang pasti kerana nampaknya, Wilford dan Goodstein tidak menemubual seseorang daripada mereka pun. Karen King dan Elaine Pagels membangkitkan kembali lakonan Gnostik mereka. Kita juga bertemu dengan James Robinson, seorang cendekiawan tersisih yang telah mengarang sebuah buku tentang Injil Yudas tanpa melihat sendiri teks tersebut. Namun, Akhbar New York Times tidak menyebut bahawa Robinson percaya Injil Yudas itu tidak memberi maklumat apa-apa pun mengenai sejarah Yudas atau Yesus.

Saya telah berbincang dengan Darrell Bock daripada Dallas Theological Seminary beberapa jam sebelum beliau dijadualkan untuk bersyarah di Princeton, iaitu majikan Pagels. Dia menerangkan beberapa kepelikan mengenai kumpulan yang telah memberi kita Injil Yudas itu. Nampaknya, kumpulan “Cainite Gnostics” memperoleh nama julukan mereka daripada usaha mereka cuba ‘memulihkan’ orang yang aib dalam kitab Bible seperti Kain, orang Sodom dan Yudas.

Bock juga menunjukkan bahawa Al-kitab (kitab Bible) memang mengandungi pelbagai perspektif yang menarik berkenaan Yudas. Markus menggambarkan Yudas sebagai seorang yang terhuyung-hayang, sama seperti pengikut-pengikut Yesus yang menyalahfahami ajarannya. Yohanes yang menulis selepas Markus, menerangkan Yudas dengan cara lain. Yudas mengeksploitasikan kedudukannya sebagai bendahari untuk mencuri dari laci duit, dan Yesus memanggilnya “syaitan”. (Yohanes 6:70)

Menurut Bock, ajaran kitab Bible menunjukkan bahawa Yudas telah mengharapkan Al-Masih yang berlainan. Dengan perasaan yang hampa, dia telah menyerahkan Yesus yang dianggapnya sebagai ancaman kepada negara Yahudi. “Yudas mencerminkan seseorang yang telah menolak Yesus pada akhirnya,” kata Bock. “Ia adalah satu kisah yang tragik – bukannya sesuatu yang dikutuk semata-mata, tetapi kita harus berasa kesal dan sedih mengenainya.”

Ianya lebih tragik dan sedih daripada perolahan semula pendebatan lama mengenai kesahihan kepercayaan Kristian yang ortodoks.

[1] "Kanon" dalam agama Kristian ialah daftar kitab rasmi yang diterima sebagai sebahagian Alkitab, dianggap ilham dari Tuhan. (Sumber: Karya.net )

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Theistic Moral Philosophy

Most of us as Christians will believe that morality has a very central place for a Christian life. But how exactly is morality related to Christianity and God? How is a Christian to understand the nature of good and bad, right and wrong? Is there a framework to make ethical evaluations and justifications? How are we to decide moral issues in the event of moral dilemmas? Is lying ever justified? To be able to grapple with such issues and have a time of ethical reasoning and to understand one such conceptual framework on moral philosophy come join us.

Venue: Orchard Road Presbyterian Church, Dunman Basement
Date: 2nd May 2005 (Tuesday)
Time: 7:45 pm-9:30 pm
Topic: Theistic Moral Philosophy
Presenter: Dominic Foo

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Theology Of Art

Some notes from Agora KL forum conducted by Footstool Players' Colin Kirton.

We are created to live creatively and artistically because we are created in the image of a creative, artistic God. Exercising our creativity is an act of worship as well as an act of communication.

Nigel Forde:
Art is revelatory, not functional – a mirror, not plastic surgery.


The artist can play the roles of a...

Court jester – speaking the truth as he sees it, however uncomfortable it may be; sometimes the audience screams back at him, sometimes it sits shame-faced and silent.

Doctor – pointing out diseases, making prognoses. Bringing us to face issues we would rather bury, deal with them and find healing.

Guide – taking you on strange and beautiful journeys to places you never have found on your own.

Clown – showing you reasons for laughter and delight. See hope in despair.

A Christian worldview in our efforts means it is important that we see arts through the lens of creation, fall, redemption and character and purposes of God whose hand moves throughout history.

Redemption is Christ’s conquering of sin at the cross, Christ’s continuing work in our lives and Christ’s culmination of redemption in eternity.

Our art should reflect beauty in the midst of ugliness, life in the midst of death, dignity in the midst of disgrace, purpose in the midst of meaninglessness, truth in the midst of lies and excellence in the midst of mediocrity. (“It is good!”)

Levels of Christian artistic expression (Steve Turner)
1) Arts that doesn’t suggest any obvious worldview i.e. a playful ditty
2) Arts that dignifies human life and introduce a sense of awe
3) Art that carries imprint of biblical teaching that isn’t uniquely Christian
4) Art inspired by Bible’s primary theological themes
5) Art that depicts the unique Christian gospel of death and resurrection

The bible gives us wonderful case study of itself, a work of art that has inspired artists in every generation.

Look at how Genesis first portrays God as Creator, the attention to detail in the tabernacle and temple building, music and songs of worship in the Psalms, the honesty of Wisdom writings like Job’s, how people may need to be confronted with the bankruptcy of life without God before he is willing to even consider the alternative (Ecclesiastes), the practical wisdom of Proverbs, the graphic love poem in Song of Songs, the prophets inspire artists to prick the pretentiousness of those in power and injustice, speaking on God’s behalf through bizarre acts that provoke and shock like Ezekial, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Hosea etc..

The artist must prophesy not in the sense that he foretells things to come but in the sense that he tells his audience at the risk of their displeasure, the secrets of their own hearts
(Collingwood)

Not to hit people with the truth like a bat and leave a bad taste in the mouth like a soap powder advertisement. But to puzzle, provoke and prompt the right questions as well.

Through the prophets, God seeks to recapture their imagination and hearts through painting pictures in the visions that were described, through picture words – his hopes for them, his worst nightmares of what was in store for them if they turned their backs on him. (Michael Card)

In New Testament, we see God speaks the final, living and luminous Word incarnate – Jesus Christ. A picture of drama where the word became flesh, Jesus communicates creatively through parables, stories and object lessons.

God’s art showing God’s heart.

Recommended Reading:

The Creative Life by Alice Bass
Scribbling in the Sand by Michael Card
Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts by Steven Turner
Art & Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts

Christianity and Western Art

Duccio, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Rubens, Picasso, Warhol, Mapplethorpe etc... The relationship between Art and Culture is linked intricately. How does an artist depict(s) his/her worldview? What assumptions lie behind the piece of art work? More critically perhaps, how should a Christian view the arts? Should we abandon them completely, or can the Gospel of Jesus Christ speak to an aesthetic world that is increasingly desperate in its search for meaning?

Presenter: Benjamin Ho
Date: April 19, 2006
Time: 7.30 pm - 9.30 pm
Location: Orchard Road Presbyterian Church.

For more information, contact Joshua (90428098) or Benjamin (92729469)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Agora Meeting - Fit Bodies Healthy Minds

Our upcoming Agora meeting will see a presentation by Herman Chauw on Physical Culture and its relation to Christianity. With hundreds of health fads out there all proposing their own methodolgies of cultivating the "perfect" body, what then should be the Christian response. How should we "cultivate" our bodies? How natural/authentic are our training methods? Our speaker - who is a gym trainer - will help us shed some light on keeping our bodies (and our minds) fit for the work of God.

Date: 15th April 2006 (Saturday)
Time: 1:30 pm (meet at Braddell Mrt station)
For more details, pls contact Joshua (90428098), Herman (96406544) or Benjamin (92729469).

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Reformed Evangelical Fellowship Meeting (Dr Lee Jian An)

Below are the details of the Reformed Evangelical Fellowship upcoming meeting. Agorians, do attend if you are able to. The meeting will be predominantly conducted in Mandarin.

Date: April 8
Time: 1400 hrs
Location: North Bridge Road Centre (#05-11)
Speaker: Dr Lee Jian An
Topic: Participation in the Reformed Movement

Monday, April 03, 2006

Ben Witherington on Prosperity Gospel

"...well what is wrong with a message that speaks about kindness, and generosity and success and prosperity? What could be wrong with this? What's wrong with a message that hardly ever mentions Jesus by name, or sin, or suffering, or self-sacrifice?...

...How very different indeed this message is from John Wesley's Famous Sermon "On the Use of Money" in which he stresses that if you make all you can honestly and save all you can, but do not give all you can to relieve poverty, feed the hungry, make well the sick you may be a living person but you are a dead Christian.

Notice as well that Jesus says quite clearly three things at the end of Mt. 6: 1) we should seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness, and the necessities of life will be added to us. Jesus does not say anything about wealth will be added to us. He says the necessities will be taken care of if we are God-focused and seeking his righteousness, not our profit.

Sometime ago when Donald Trump was riding high, he was interviewed on the subject of "how much is enough?" This was after he had assets totaling in the millions. His answer was very revealing--- "a little bit more." This is the truth about human nature, and what Paul says about that nature is that it needs to be crucified, not indulged, it needs to die not be pampered..."

Read the full article here

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Through Heaven's Eyes

Jack Said dedicated 'something' to Agora SG. Didnt know what to call that 'something'. It is not really a poem. Check out:

A single thread in a tapestry
Though its color brightly shines
Can never see its purpose
In the pattern of the grand design....(more)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Secularization and Christian Faith

This is my personal summary of the sharing by Randolph Kluver - Singapore Agora Meeting on 21 March 2006. To make it more readable, I have segregated all the themes according to my thinking framework. Please correct me if there is wrong spelling of authors or wrong content. May God bless our learning.
I. Secularization of Society vs. Religious Belief

19th Century, there is a prediction that secularization would replace religious belief.

This prediction is based on 3 assumptions:

1. Religious faith is irrelevant. That is, belief in God no longer motivates society.
2. Strong expectation in Science to answer all questions. That is, God is not really needed to answer our questions.
3. Religious authority is undermined through education.

In 1980s and 1990s, the secular theology is demolished. What happen is that religious belief becomes stronger rather than weaker in society.

II. Statistics

How did the people draw the prediction of secularization in the first place?

Generally, it is because of the trend of secularization is seen in many western European countries that used to be very strong its Christian heritage, like Germany, France, Britain, Netherland, etc. These some 20 nations underwent the same trend, with America as an exception. The United States is the most technologically advanced and richest nation and yet it remains very strong in religious belief. Some comes up with the term 'America exceptionalism' in explaining secularization removing religious belief. However, in number of nations, America might be an exception, but if seen from population number, it is comparable with all those nations' population combined. In that sense, we cannot really say this is an exception.

III. Modernization and Christian Faith

Modernization here refers to movements like technology advancement, educational reforms, economy progress and social infrastructure. Modernity, on the other hand, refers to a worldview, a philosophical attitude associated with secularization, where God is no longer relevant.

We see that not all modernization causes secularization. How do we explain these phenomena?

In many Western European countries, political order is grounded in religious belief. Hence, in order to overthrow a current political system, there is a need to overthrow its religious foundation. As Western European countries had strong Christian heritage, when the system became very dull and oppressive, people seek alternative, like atheism to overthrow the system. As atheism is against Christianity, it casts off the old religious beliefs and hence is seen as a liberating factor.

However, if we turn to South Korea, Latin America and many other developing Asian countries which have other religious beliefs which have grounded and constrained their social and political system, Christianity is seen as a liberating factor. Christianity aligns itself with modernization in most parts of the world and has quite a different role and effect on these countries.

Today, study shows that believers have more faith in Science and technology than unbelievers. This undermines the earlier assumption that Science and religion are always in conflict with each other, which is an assumption that has been used to predict the future of human history. Now every explanatory mechanism which attempt to do a trajectory of historical direction is called into question.

IV. Competition vs. Monopoly

Stark made an observation religions, that like economy, when we have monopoly, there is no competition and it will produce poor quality product and dies off. If religious bodies are allowed to compete in expressing their beliefs, there will be vibrancy and people will think much more deeply. The case in Western Europe is an exception rather than the norm, where religion is allowed to monopolize hence it dies off. So we have the paradoxical phenomena where secularization in political sense (separating religion and state, hence gives freedom to religious expression) prevents secularization in religious sense (that is, God is seen as non-relevant). Singapore, for example, is a country that gives freedom of religion (no religion monopolizes) hence there is vibrancy where people can learn and compare. Many people from mainland China are converted into Christianity here, although they have been trained as atheists in their homeland.

(Personal Note: I think it is a double-edged sword so we have to realize its danger too. Such secularization might popularize Christianity, but the tendency is that faith will only be allowed to confine itself in private sphere. As a result, faith is seen more as a commodity along with other human needs which we can pick and choose, rather than as a foundation to base our entire life on. On the other hand, if I were to choose, this is better than religious monopoly, where faith is imposed. Having said that, Christians live in a higher realm and have to learn to operate and articulate their faith in whatever state the world is in.)

Peter Berger talks about secularization by reversing the trend. He talks not of the survival of religious belief, but the survival of atheism is the historical anomaly. Phillip Jenkins talks about the rise of Christianity in developing nations. The trend in these nations is Christianity which is heavily supernatural, charismatic, aligned with the poor, aligned with progressive social causes and very vibrant.

Western Christendom is so rationalized to the point that it has more in common with atheism and denies much more vibrant form of Christianity.


V. Postmodernism

It is not a set of beliefs. Relativity is a method rather than a foundation. It is said as a suspicion towards meta-narrative. How did this suspicion come about?

If we go back to communism, Karl Marx initially said that religion is an opium to the masses. It means religion is a consequence of social pain. People turn to religious beliefs because they are not able to face the sufferings in life. Therefore if pain is removed, such phenomena will be removed as well. However, after the communist reforms, religious beliefs did not go away. They are soon seen not as effect of social pain, but as barriers to progress. Hence religion becomes the point of attack for many communist countries like Russia and China.

Communism then, is not without meta-narrative. It is a meta-narrative in itself and the true believers believe they are creating history. Christianity has a meta-narrative, the gospel, which is different from communism.

In 1989, we see the fall of communism.

Postmodernists becomes suspicious of meta-narrative because from history they infer that meta-narrative always has political interest in mind. They do not necessarily disbelieve that there is absolute Truth, but they are just doubtful if anyone can really tell what it is, if it is there. And if someone really claims to know, they are immediately suspicious that it is another political agenda.

1920s see the rise of liberalism. Christians have responded in two different ways. One camp wants to keep the message relevant within modernists worldview hence they give up faith for culture. The other camp finds the society so deeply entrenched that they decide not to play the game, so they become fundamentalists, and often times they give up culture for faith.


VII. Christian Response - Gospel & Culture Mandate

The fact is that modernity (rationalism) is under attack not only by Christianity, but by all other forces as well. This tells us that rationalism has actually crumbled.

Many rationalists are still relying on primitive standard argument which cannot even stand scrutity of logic (like the illogical question of "Can God create a rock He cannot carry?" is not a valid question to disprove God, but simply a problematic question in itself that is confused and meaningless). We are in an era where those rationalistic presuppositions have crumbled and it is a good time to re-engage with the world.

The problem is that while opportunities abound, Christians are very ill-prepared to seize them.

Although the charismatics have positioned themselves where progress and changes are taking place, up to this moment there is not yet even a group of people among them who are equipped to engage with the intellectuals. On the other hand, fundamentalists are locking themselves behind.

Domain theology says that there are different domains in life where Christians ought to establish biblical framework, but we have allowed all these domains to be dominated and determined by unbelievers with their unbiblical framework. Not only that, we take our most talented people and put them in the sideline by assuming that they all must go into fulltime ministry, but we have not thought much of developing Christian economists, philosophers, politicians, etc. And most Christians who are already at the position of influence in society are so ill-equipped that they never use all the chances they have to establish biblical framework in their sphere of influence. In arts, economy, IT and technology, etc. we need to equip Christians who are gifted in these areas to build a biblical framework for them. It is not enough just to win souls, we also need to win our culture.
Note (from Ben): Today's session is yet another reminder of the need for Christians to really examine our faith within the context of our social, cultural, political and economic life. While we see the influence of the institutional church being attacked and reduced and seemingly powerless, it is from there in which the paradoxical message of Christianity begins. The Gospel that was seen as foolish is made wise, the humiliated Word exalted, the Lamb of God that was slain to become worthy of all honour, glory and power.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Discovering Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll, pastor of The Mars Hill, an a very interesting theological hybrid. Adrian Warnock describes him well;

"Mars Hill (his church) is one of those unique churches that is probably too emerging for some evangelicals to cope with, much too traditional for the emerging folks, too charismatic for the reformed folks and too reformed for the average Charismatic. It’s a wonder anyone likes the church! Actually, the more I read of Mark the more he sounds like he is making his home in the same kind of centre ground that my own church tries to occupy."

Read Adrian's full article here

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Secularism, Modernization and the Christian Faith

What does it mean to live in a "secular city" like Singapore? What does modernization does to our Christian faith? What are the challenges the church face? More importantly, how should Christians then live?
Dr Randolph Kluver, the executive director of the SIngapore Internet Research Centre and a lecturer at the School of Communication and Information. NTU, will join us to shed light on some of the social, cultural issues that Christians may have to wrestle with.

Date of meeting: 21 March, 2006
Time: 7.30 pm
Venue: Orchard Road Presbyterian Church

Monday, March 13, 2006

Reformed Evangelical Movement Fellowship

The above fellowship is organised by Stephen Tong Evangelical Ministry. It will be holding its first meeting this Saturday (18/3/06) , 2pm at North Bridge Centre (#05-11).

So far, Mejlina, Darren and Benjamin will be attending. Note: The meetings are likely to be conducted in Mandarin.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Summary of Meeting: Considering the Pentecostal / Charismatic Movement

On 08 Mar 2006, Agora SG met in Orchard Road Presbyterian Church to consider the Pentecostal / charismatic movement. This was kick-started with a presentation by Jason which attempted to introduce the movement. Although the group was dominated by non-charismatics, the view of the charismatics was not absent as Evelyn generously shared of her thoughts and experiences with the group. A more in depth discussion on the topic of 'visions' occupied the group after the presentation as well.

The notes to the presentation prepared by Jason have been sent to the SG Agorians. Do contact the group should you wish to obtain a copy of it.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Considering the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement

Charismatic movement has always been a talk among Christians since previous century up till our own due to its controversial homiletics and liturgies. Since its beginning in the early 20th century, what fruits has it brought forth so far? How different is this movement compared to other Christian denominations? To know more about this, please join us at:

Venue: Orchard Road Presbyterian Church (3 mins walk from Dhoby Ghaut MRT)
Time: 7:45pm - 9:30pm
Date: 08 Mar 2006 (Wednesday)

Admission: Free
Topic: Considering the Pentecostal / Charismatic Movement
Presenter: Jason Leong

Friday, February 24, 2006

Reformed Evangelical Movement

What is the Reformed Movement? Where is the Reformed Movement going? - A 4-day theological seminar by Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong at Newton Life Church

Feb 23 (Thursday): 7.30 pm - 10pm
Feb 24 (Friday): 7.30 pm - 10 pm
Feb 25 (Sat) : 6pm - 8pm
Feb 26 (Sunday) : 7:30 pm - 10 pm

Language: In Mandarin with English translation

Rev. Tong had been contemplating on 'throwing a fire of passion in the midst of the Church in Singapore' since last year. This is his burden for Singapore churches and this is where this servant of God ignites the flame which once burnt in the hearts of the Reformers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What We Need To Know


Creation vs. Evolution: What Our Children Need to Know

By Nancy Pearcey

A few months ago, President Bush sparked an outpouring of media ink by saying he favored a balanced approach to teaching evolution in public schools. "Both sides should be properly taught," he said, "so people can understand what the debate is about." But homeschooling families have been way ahead of the curve in teaching their children about the debate over Darwin. They were among the first to realize that far more is at stake than simply science -- that when naturalistic evolution is taught in science textbooks, that will lead to a naturalistic view of the human person taught in sociology textbooks, history textbooks, family life textbooks, and all the rest of the curriculum. As a leader of the Intelligent Design movement once said, "A naturalistic definition of science has the effect of indoctrinating students into a naturalistic worldview."

Precisely. Whatever a culture adopts as its creation story shapes everything else.

Yet even today, many Christians fail to recognize this connection. As Francis Schaeffer once said, Christians often see things in "bits and pieces," opposing individual issues like family breakdown, abortion, and immoral entertainment, but failing to see the big picture that connects all the dots. We need to realize, Schaeffer said, that all these forms of cultural dissolution have "come about due to a shift in worldview . . . . to a worldview based on the idea that the final reality is impersonal matter or energy shaped into its current form by impersonal chance."

In other words, long before there was an Intelligent Design movement, Schaeffer realized that everything hangs on a culture’s view of origins. If you start with impersonal forces operating by chance -- naturalistic evolution -- then over time you will end up with naturalism in moral, social, and political philosophy. This is the big picture we need to teach our children to see.

But where to begin? The first step, of course, is to ground them thoroughly in the scientific data. Many books offer a good overview of the arguments, but my experience is that parents often come away with a general idea, yet still don’t feel equipped to teach. My approach here will be to focus on the heart of the evolution controversy -- the origin of life -- and to describe the most recent and compelling evidence in sufficient detail that homeschooling parents will be able to rephrase it in their own words and use it immediately with their children. I will springboard from there to track the far-flung cultural implications of evolution in the next article in this series.

Little Green Men

The heart of design theory is the claim that design can be empirically detected. When you think about it, this is something we do all the time in ordinary life. We distinguish readily between the products of nature and the products of intelligence. Imagine you are walking on the beach, admiring the lovely pattern of the ripples. Yet you know that ripples are nothing more than the effect of wind on waves.

Then suppose you come across a sand castle. Do you assume it was created by the wind and waves as well? Why not? The material constituents of the castle are nothing but sand, mud, and water, just like the ripples all around it. But we intuitively recognize that those starting materials have a different kind of order imposed upon them. Design theory merely formalizes this ordinary intuition.

Critics say the concept of design does not belong in science. But several areas of science already deal with the detection of design. Back in 1967, I read a newspaper headline announcing that astronomers may have discovered radio messages coming from outer space. They dubbed the signals "LGM" to signify "Little Green Men." Later, however, they realized that the radio pulses were coming in a regular, recurring pattern like the flashing of a lighthouse, not an irregular pattern like the sequence of letters in a message. What they had discovered were not aliens but pulsars -- rotating stars.

Today astronomers involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence have worked out extensive criteria for recognizing if a radio signal is an encoded message or if it is just a natural phenomenon, like a pulsar. In other words, they have criteria for distinguishing between products of design and products of natural causes.

In the same way, archeologists have worked out criteria for determining when a stone has the distinctive chip marks of a primitive tool (design), and when its shape is simply the result of weathering. Detectives are trained to distinguish murder (design) from death by natural causes. Insurance companies have steps for deciding whether a fire was intentional, a case of arson (design), or just an accident. Cryptologists have procedures to determine whether a set of symbols is a secret message (design) or merely a random sequence. The point is that many branches of science already deal with the detection of design. The claim of design theory is that it can be applied to nature as well.

Who Wrote the Genetic Code?

The clearest example is the origin of life. A few years ago, when scientists announced that they had decoded the human genome, there was tremendous publicity and even a White House ceremony. All the ceremonial language at the time stressed the analogy between DNA and a written language. The director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, Dr. Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian, said: "We have caught the first glimpses of our instruction book, previously known only to God." Then-President Clinton resorted to God talk as well, saying, "Today we are learning the language in which God created life."

These are actually very apt analogies. DNA is built up of 4 chemical "letters" that are combined in various sequences to spell out a message, a code. The DNA in each cell of your body packs in more information than the entire 30 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The result is that the origin of life now has been recast as the question of the origin of complex biological information.

In ordinary life, when we encounter a message we have no doubt where it came from: We know that only intelligent agents, not natural processes, produce messages. When a friend of mine took a ship up the West Coast to Canada, he was greeted by a colorful display of flowers spelling out "Welcome to Victoria" - a guarantee that the seeds were not blown there randomly by the wind.

An amusing episode took place shortly after September 11 in Palm Beach, Florida. A minor panic broke out when residents spied a cropduster flying overhead, using skywriting to spell out: "God is great." People were afraid that the pilot might be a terrorist praising Allah, and they called the police. But it turned out that the pilot was a Christian, who periodically uses his skywriting skills to send inspirational messages. (He just didn't realize how bad his timing was!)

The point is that when you see a message, a language, you conclude immediately that it is not the product of natural causes. When the citizens of Palm Beach saw fluffy white shapes that looked like letters in the sky, they did not for a moment start discussing interesting patterns of water condensation. They correctly inferred that it was product of an intelligent agent.

The Marks of Design

This kind of reasoning is intuitive -- it seems natural to the human mind. But how do we make it logically and scientifically rigorous? By distinguishing between three types of events: Some events are random, happening by chance. Other events are regular and predictable, and can be formulated in natural laws. Still others are the result of design -- things like houses, cars, computers, and books.

We can illustrate these three options in origin-of-life theories by using the analogy of Scrabble letters. Just as in a language, it is the sequence of the chemical letters in DNA that makes for biological function, so the question is how to explain the origin of that sequence.

CHANCE: The older view of life's origin was that the building blocks arose by chance. But today, chance theories have been rejected. Why? Because in principle, chance does not produce complex information.

Imagine that you put on a blindfold and line up a string of Scrabble letters without looking. Are the letters going to spell out an intelligible pattern? No. What you get is a random sequence. By sheer chance you might get a few short words like "and" or "the," but you will not get Shakespeare's Hamlet. Chance events do not give rise to complex, specified information.

LAW: The second possibility is the most common view among scientists today -- that life arose by natural forces within the constituents of matter itself. Life arises automatically whenever the right conditions hold. Does this explain the sequence in DNA? The answer, again, is No. Why not? Because lawful events act in regular, predictable, repeatable patterns.

In our Scrabble example, the analogy to laws of nature would be that this time you decide to follow certain rules. The rule says, every time you have an S, it's followed by a C, which is followed by an R, then an A, a double B, an L, and an E. The result is that every time you start with S, you get SCRABBLE, SCRABBLE, SCRABBLE. Obviously if you had an alphabet that followed rules like that, you could spell only a few words -- and you could not convey very much information.

The reason a real alphabet works so well is precisely that the letters are not governed by rules. If you know a word begins with a "T," can you predict what the next letter will be? No. It could be virtually any letter. With a few exceptions (q is always followed by u), the letters can be combined and recombined in an almost infinite variety of ways. That's what makes an alphabet capable of conveying vast quantities of information.

The same principle holds with the chemical "letters" in DNA. And if there were laws governing the sequences in DNA, then it would not be able to store very much information. This is backed up by experiments, which show that, as a factual matter, there are no laws governing how the letters combine.

DESIGN: The hallmark of design is an irregular sequence that fits a prescribed pattern. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the letters are irregular (they do not repeat the same pattern over and over, as in the SCRABBLE example). The reason they function to communicate is that they fit the prescribed pattern of the English language. The technical term for this is "specified complexity," and it's the kind of order we see in books, magazines, and Scrabble games.

The most popular analogy, however, is a computer -- the DNA molecule itself is the hardware and the message it stores and conveys is the software. That's why biologist Richard Dawkins can say, "The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer engineering journal."

The Medium Not the Message

The realization that life is about information completely turns older arguments about evolution on their head. Why? Because information is independent of the material medium used to store and transmit it. In a book, the words are printed with ink on paper, but they could also be written with crayon or paint or chalk, or even scratched into sand with a stick. The message remains the same, no matter what you use to write it. And the obvious implication is that the message was not created by the matter used to write it.

The words in a book were not created by chemical forces within the ink and paper. If you see a message on a chalkboard -- "Science Test Today!" -- you do not think it arose from the chemical properties of calcium carbonate. What does this mean for the origin of life? It means the message in DNA was not created by the chemical forces within the molecule itself.

This explains why all the experiments to create life have failed - because they all try to build a living form from the bottom up, by assembling the right materials. But the material medium does not write the message. As astrophysicist Paul Davies says, "Trying to make life by mixing chemicals in a test tube is like soldering switches and wires in an attempt to produce Windows 98. It won't work because it addresses the problem at the wrong conceptual level."

This is a devastating critique. To suggest that matter could give rise to life is not just mistaken; it addresses the question "at the wrong conceptual level." It is beginning to look like the best key to interpreting the organic world is not natural selection but John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word," the Logos -- language, information.

Philosophy, Not Facts

Why don't these arguments get a hearing in the typical science textbook? The answer is that science has been redefined as applied naturalism or materialism. Consider this quotation from Richard Dawkins: "Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory . . . we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories." Why? Because it is naturalistic.

In a letter published in Nature, another scientist says the same thing from the opposite direction: "Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic."

Let that sink in for a moment. Even if there is no evidence for Darwinism, and if all the data point to a designer, still that theory would not be permissible in science. Obviously, it is not ultimately a matter of evidence at all. What this tells us is that science itself has been redefined as applied naturalistic philosophy, so that only naturalistic theories are even considered. That's why we have to deal with the issue on two levels - not only the scientific evidence, but also the philosophy. The next article in this series will give an eye-opening description of the pervasive impact of Darwinism on virtually every aspect of American culture.


The original article is here.

Monday, February 06, 2006

WWJE?

Venue: Orchard Road Presbyterian Church
Time: 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Date: 8th Feb 2006

Admission: Free
Topic: What would Jesus want me to eat
Presenter: Mandy

Please do not hesistate to join us.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Upcoming Topic: 'What is God Like?'

A Trinitarian paradigm of apologetics.

Venue: Orchard Road Presbyterian Church
Time: 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Date: 17th Jan 2006

Admission: Free
Topic: 'What God is Like?' - A Trinitarian Paradigm of Apologetics
Presenter: LT Jeyachandran

Please do not hesistate to join us.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Overview Of 20th Century

OVERVIEW OF THE 20TH CENTURY

Transcribed From Sermon by Rev. Stephen Tong

For the first night of our Consultation, we will broadly canvass the major developments of the 20th century. With a firm grasp of the past, we would be better equipped to pursue a modern Reformation in our evangelical faith, ethics and missions. Later when we draw to a conclusion, we will analyse and anticipate the challenges of the 21st century on the final session. Armed with an overview of how past ideas have impacted our world, we can press ahead to seize the opportunities before us.

By the grace of God, you and I live at a momentous period in time. Standing at the threshold of a new century, we should not send away the passing century without insights gleaned from history. We should also brace ourselves with courage and alertness to confront an uncertain future before us.

The Philosophy of History

Time is but the moving image of eternity. God as Self-existent, necessary Being transcends space-time continuum. He is the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega and the Director of the Course of Time Who Was, Who Is and Who Is to Come. Many 20th century scientists have admitted that the universe is finite and therefore has a starting point. 1 This implies a Creator because nothing can bring itself from non-existence into existence. One of the uniqueness of the Christian faith among other religions is that we do not disassociate ourselves from the space-time continuum. Corporeal existence as God’s creation is not evil in itself and the physical realm is not dismissed as mere illusion. We have a tremendous responsibility to be faithful stewards in our present life in a temporal world. Even God himself manifested his glory among men in space-time by taking upon himself a finite, fully human nature. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Read on

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Heritage of Protestantism

This is an outline of the Singapore Agora presentation of the Heritage of Protestantism on 5th December 2005. Click the link for more details.

I. Historical Overview of the 16th Century Reformation (more...)
a. The Birth of the Reformation
b. German Reformation
c. Swiss Reformation
d. English Reformation

II. The Fruits of Protestantism (more...)

a. Thesis: Protestants’ View
b. Antithesis: Roman Catholic Church’s View
c. Synthesis: Historian Phillip Schaff

III. Reflection and Implications (more...)

a. Essence and Phenomena
b. Response: Reforming reformed

Questions to Ponder:

What kind of life would be remembered by God?
What does it mean to live a Christian life in our generation?

References from Protestant Sources

1. Civilization and Protestant Reformation
http://www.gospelpedlar.com/articles/Church%20History/reformation.html

2. Reformation Lectures in October 2005 by Dr.Edward M Panosian from Bob Jones University
- The Coming of the Reformation
- German, Swiss and English Reformation

3. Philip Schaff's Idea of Historical Progress & Its Critique of the Church in 19th Century America by Wayne A Larson
http://www.hornes.org/theologia/content/wayne_larson/philip_schaffs_idea_of_historical_progress.htm

4. My blog – In Commemoration of Reformation
http://mejlinajournalthoughts.blogspot.com/2005/10/in-commemoration-of-reformation.html

References from Roman Catholic Sources

1. Catholic Encyclopedia on Protestantism
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12495a.htm

2. Protestant Revolt – Its Tragic Initial Impact by Dave Armstrong
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ407.HTM