Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Church As MultiRacial Community

By Bishop Dr Robert Solomon

I was at a combined service recently where I had the joy of giving the benediction in three languages - Mandarin, Tamil, and English. The next day I was at a Peranakan service and had the opportunity to give the benediction in Malay. This experience reiterated for me the fact that the church is a multi-lingual and multiracial community. This is not just a sociological phenomenon, for in order to understand it adequately, we must begin with a theological perspective...

The question still remains: Can people of different races be bonded deeply?

The answer lies in the gospel and what it does to our ultimate identities. The gospel of Christ redemptively brings together people with different ethnic and national loyalties and identities by uniting them in a common and ultimate identity and allegiance. When we are baptised, we are given a common identity as children of the true and triune God. We become members of one Body, the Body of Christ. It is this unity that allows for the rich diversity in the God-created world to exist in the church, without conflict and chaos.

Without this unity located and centred in the one God and Father of all, one Lord, and one Spirit, and expressed in the one hope, one faith, one baptism, and one Body (Ephesians 4:4-6), there is no hope for the rich diversity of races to be brought together into real and abiding community, and no hope for the disappearance of the enmity, hatred, violence, and prejudices that often characterise inter-ethnic relations.

God brings us together from every tribe and tongue into one family, united by an identity and allegiance that transcend our ethnic and other penultimate identities. As Paul describes in Ephesians 2, the cross of Christ then becomes our peace, filling every interstitial space between peoples, thus bringing about reconciliation and richness.

It is this truth that fires our imagination to reach beyond our comfort zones and that has led the church in mission to reach out without discrimination so that the church becomes what the world ought to be, where all races have a God-given place. The churches in Singapore have shown signs of doing this as they reach out in mission to other people groups with the love of God. This mission of God must continue to shape and transform us. The experience of the church in Singapore, though not perfect in this regard, nevertheless does show glimpses of what God has in mind. Read the entire article

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Path To Reconciliation

Excerpt from "Trends & Faith", The Great Commission Sept 2007. By Dr Leong Tien Fock

"Most Christians take for granted that when Christ died on the cross, He bore our sins. That means He substituted for us and suffered on our behalf. This is clearly taught in Scripture. But this teaching is becoming unpopular, especially among some younger christians. It has even been labelled "cosmic child abuse". This is not the place for a comprehensive response to this rising trend. We will consider one issue.

The charge of "cosmic child abuse" is based on the assumption that the teaching that Christ died on our behalf means He was punished as an innocent third party by His Father. This is not true. We need to look at the nature of forgiveness. In the process we will also see why forgiveness is difficult and why in some cases reconciliation is even more difficult. This helps to explain why there is often an impasse in resolving personal conflicts.

To forgive is to cancel a debt. In the Lord's Prayer we read, "Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matt 6:12) In human relationships this idea is more clearly seen when we forgive someone whose offense against us involves material loss. If I spread lies about you and cause you to lose a well-paying job, I owe you a debt. You can actually sue me for damages. To forgive me means you cancel that debt by absorbing all the loss yourself. Even if the lies did not result in material loss, you could still have sued me for the emotional pain you suffered. To forgive me means you willingly endure the pain and let me go scot-free.

So to forgive others we must be willing to bear the consequences of their wrong against us, whatever the consequences may be. What makes forgiveness difficult is that only the offended party can forgive. If I offend you, neither your pastor nor your father can forgive me on your behalf. But if you are the one who is offended, the last thing on your mind is to forgive me. You may even scream, "How can I let him go scto-free for what he did to me!?"

When we sin, we sin against God. So only God can forgive sin. And to forgive sin, God Himself must bear the consequences of sin, which is death. That means God must die. But God cannot die. So God had to become man to bear the consequence of sin. As John Stott puts it, it was "God in Christ" who died on our behalf. Hence Christ was not "punished as an innocent third party". He was the offended party. When He hung on the cross, He willingly bore the consequence of our sins so that we could be forgiven."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lessons from Christian History for the Christian Mission Enterprise Today

Lessons from Christian History for the Christian Mission Enterprise Today


Date: 8 Jan 2008

Time:2 pm-3.30 pm

Venue: L1 Multi-purpose Hall, Trinity Theological College

Speaker: Professor Andrew Walls, Prof. Emeritus, University of Edinburgh

Prof. Andrew Walls is an authoritative expert on global mission and been recognized as a "Historian ahead of his time" by Christianity Today. He is the founder of Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World.

Andrew Walls may be the most important person you don't know. Most Americans and Europeans think of Christianity as a Western religion. Prominent leaders of the last 50 years, like Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, and Pope John Paul II, are known primarily for their influence in the West, though in fact each of them has played a significant role in wider, global Christianity. But the most important development for the church in the 20th and 21st centuries has not been in the West at all, but in the astonishing shift of Christianity's center of gravity from the Western industrialized nations to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In a short time, Christianity has been transformed from a European religion to a global one.

Andrew Walls is the person to help us understand what this means. One of the first scholars to notice and study the shift, he combines exhaustive knowledge of the worldwide church with a deep historical and theological vision. Scholars who know his work (almost all published in obscure journals) speak of him with something like reverence. (Read More)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Computing Technology: Created, Fallen, In Need Of Redemption?

By Joel C. Adams
Department of Computer Science, Calvin College

Abstract: If we accept the premise that computing technology is a part of the created order, then avariety of creation-related biblical themes become applicable to computing technology.In this paper, we explore some of the implications of these themes for computing technology,particularly the themes of creation-fall-redemption, the cultural mandate, and stewardship. We also explore two developments in computing technology – the evolution of user interfaces and the evolution of programming languages – in the light of these themes.

Read on for the entire article

Understanding The Times

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What Is Dualism?

Scripture defines the human problem as moral rebellion against God but the Greeks believe the problem is metaphysical. The material world is seen as evil/chaotic while the spiritual Forms are rational/good. Augustine treated the contemplative life of prayer and meditation in monasteries as superior to the active life of ordinary work in the world. Descartes and Kant pictured the world as a huge mechanistic system moving in fixed patterns by natural laws while the mind is the realm of thought, emotion, will.



Three types of Christian dualism:
Human - Body versus Soul (Two opposing substances, one is “important/redeemable” and the other “useless/lost.” But man is a cohesive whole. The whole man was created good, and the whole man is being redeemed.)

Reality - Heaven versus World (Escape this hopelessly lost physical world for an otherworldly, disembodied existence. Heaven and earth shall be renewed.)

Faith - Sacred versus Secular (Prayer and religious meditation is more valuable than manual labor. All of life is sacred.)

Biblical Thinking Tools

Creation: The physical world God made was GOOD! Nature is a showcase of His glory. Humanity is made in God’s own image for relationship, different from the rest of creation. Life is sacred. Work is meaningful in a rhythm of rest and labor.

Fall: We have pushed God out from our thinking and living. In disobedience, we have made physical and mental substitutes (idols) to tell us right from wrong. Sin has corrupted nature, fractured social relationships, alienation, resulted in toilsome work directed by selfishness. But even sinners still bear God’s Image and capable of genuine knowledge by God’s common grace.

Redemption: Christ has freed us from power of sin, reconciled us with God and restored us to be fully, truly human. Our work shares in His redemptive purpose to reverse the effects of sin. We join Christ in ushering His kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Saved to do good in THIS world, not an otherworldly escapism.

How Shall We Live?

Abraham Kuyper, journalist/theologian/politician/educator says: “There is not a square inch in the universe that Christ does not claim, “This is mine!” The Lordship of Christ embraces all of life. Do all things for the glory of God. If all life is the Lord’s, reflect about your area of study, interest, vocation and leisure. For example:

•Science – What’s Its Method and Limits? How Shall We Consider Macroevolution?
•Medical Fields – How shall I view mercy killing, abortion, cloning, stem cell research?
•Business/Economics – How should wealth be distributed? By merits or social status? Do corporations have moral duty or only profit?
•Law –How does the church relate to the state? What is justice? Should we legislate morality?
•Psychology – Certain brain functions and emotions are co-related, is there a soul distinct from the brain? Is moral behavior like homosexuality determined by biological factors?
•Media/Journalism – What are ethical issues and virtues relevant to my vocation?
•Literature – Should we seek the author’s intent of writing? Does meaning reside in the reader?
•Movies – Was it honest or artfully done well? What does the story say about what’s right, true or beautiful? Who’s the good guy?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Relativism: Feet Planted In Thin Air

Based on Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith's book "Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted In Thin Air". A discussion on Relativism and Christian Ethics...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

GospelTranslations.org

Here are some updates on the project that Agora is a part of with Open Source Mission.

Our goal with the GospelTranslations.org project is to make gospel-centered resources accessible for Christians of every nation and language . Our vision is that Christians everywhere will be able to learn about the gospel in their own languages and without financial impediments.

Believe it or not, we now have nearly 50 active translators in 9 languages, and in addition to the book that we are working on, we’ve translated about 40 Desiring God articles. The team with the most volunteers currently is the Spanish language one, and we will probably have enough Spanish material in the next month or two to actually start publicizing a Spanish Resource site. Bahasa Indonesia has the second most translations — chapters from CJ Mahaney's "This Great Salvation" and a few articles as well.

But the Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese language teams would need more help. If you guys are interested to help out on a voluntary basis, let's network and contact andrew at opensourcemission dot com

We are now in partnership with Desiring God, 9marks and Sovereign Grace in providing their online resources free.

Endorsements

“Sovereign Grace is passionate about gospel-centered churches built on the foundation of sound doctrine. That’s why we’re excited to partner with Open Source Mission. OSM’s new approach to translation and free distribution of gospel-centered materials will help make such churches a reality around the world.”

- C.J. Mahaney, President, Sovereign Grace Ministries

"I believe Open Source Mission is an answer to our prayers. We’re trying to make Desiring God's resources as accessible and affordable as possible to as many peoples around the world as possible...but we can't keep up with all the language translation requests. O that we had a new model to facilitate translations...I think Open Source Mission might be that model."

- Jon Bloom, Executive Director, Desiring God

"The western world is incredibly wealthy and ironically selfish. We in the Christian community should reflect the generosity God has shown us in Christ by investing in resources for the benefit of others. An obvious way is the translation of solid, gospel material into other languages. Open Source Mission and Sovereign Grace Ministries once again lead the way in generosity and zeal with their new translation initiative, GospelTranslations.org. I trust the men behind this program and most importantly I trust the God they serve who desires to see men and women from every nation come to know him."

- Dr. Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church

God Doesn't Play Dice, But Does He Play Mahjong?

So what of dice and mahjong? (by Paul Woods)

In response to developments in quantum mechanics Einstein complained that God does not play dice – the universe’s physical functioning is not based on chance. Neither is its missiological functioning.

A few years ago an OMF colleague and I were discussing the increasing numbers of Mainland Chinese who live abroad. With horizontal, rotary, sweeping motions of both hands, he told me “God is washing the (mahjong) tiles”. Mahjong is the classic Chinese game similar to a combination of playing cards and dominoes, in which the tiles are shuffled or washed after each game. From this we derived the term mahjong theology to advocate Diaspora Ministry. In His sovereignty, today God is shuffling the pack, and washing people from various ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds all over the planet. Just as God washed Ruth and Rahab into the community of faith, so now He is washing Chinese to the UK, for example. This is nothing new; Acts 17:26-27 tell us that God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

For us, the migration phenomenon of the early 21st century ties together the Great Commission with the ethics of God-fearing community, and an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty in the affairs of men and women. Indeed, Christian ministry among migrants has been described as Acts 1:8 in reverse; God is bringing people from the ends of the earth right to our street. We are to respond to this challenge right where we live.

Some may perceive migration as a menace, but as citizens and Christians we should view it as ministry opportunity. Unprecedented numbers of people are on the move, looking for safety, freedom, or just a better life. The expansion of the EU and ASEAN, improved communication, and ever-cheaper travel have all shrunk our world. At the same time, poverty, conflict, and hardship in many regions have caused millions to cross borders to richer, more stable nations.

Migrants are often creative, proactive people looking for a better life. There is much anecdotal evidence that migrants are more open to new things than those who remain at home. Yet the same people are vulnerable and needy. Before leaving China, one student was told by non-believing relatives, “If you need help in Britain, go to a church. They will look after you”. Our own Diaspora ministry showed us that
while apologetics and Bible study were important, the vital factor in the journey to faith was God’s love manifest through His people, across a faith – non-faith interface.

Read the entire Encounter issue on Mission and Migration here

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ichtus Research Centre

The beginning of Ichthus Research Centre

The Ichthus Research Centre began with the dream of a farsighted couple who believed that high level biblical and theological studies should be carried out in Asia. Through their generous gift, made in memory of their late parents Mr. Yao Ye Siu and Mrs. Yao Lee Sau Han, the Centre came into existence. The future of the Centre depends upon the contributions of many others who share their dream. We would like to welcome all those who would like to work together to make this dream become a reality.

The reason for the name Ichthus Research Centre

Throughout church history the Greek word IXQUS (which means "fish"and can be transliterated as ICHTHUS) has had a special meaning to followers of Jesus Christ. For the early church the "sign of the fish" became an important mark of identification. The letters of the word IXQUS came to stand for the words Ihsouj Xristoj Qeou Uioj Swthr - "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Saviour." The Ichthus Research Centre exists in recognition that Jesus Christ is both God's Son and our Saviour.

The basic direction and policies of the Research Centre

The Ichthus Research Centre for Biblical and Theological Studies exists for a number of reasons:

To produce contextualized biblical and theological research.
To promote interaction among specialists in the areas of biblical studies and theology.
To organize seminars for the discussion of biblical and theological issues of contemporary interest.
To build up a quality collection of scholarly books and journals on theological and biblical studies for use by Ichthus members.
To develop a digital library in order to enhance research in theological and biblical studies.
To encourage local and foreign scholars to write biblical and/or theological papers for presentation and/or publication.
To encourage members to publish their research and to enable them to do so as far as it is possible

Membership in the Ichthus Research Centre
The Ichthus Research Centre offers two different types of membership.
Full Membership is available to those who have a doctoral degree (PhD or ThD) in either biblical or theological studies.

Associate Membership is available to those who have a Master of Divinity degree (or equivalent) in either biblical or theological studies.
SBC students who are working for the degree of Th.M. are also eligible for associate membership.

Membership with Ichthus Research Centre is available at an annual fee of $50. Members should reapply each year. Anyone holding either a Full or Associate Membership is eligible to use the Centre‘s books and other materials at the SBC library, as well as to attend Ichthus seminars without charge. Singapore Bible College library membership is available at no additional cost for Ichthus members. Ichthus members are also eligible to apply for the use of Ichthus facility for research-writing purposes. In addition, members will also be able to purchase Ichthus publications at reduced rates.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Getting Back On Course

Ajith Fernando - It's time to return to the priority of evangelism.

Those wanting to follow Christ in seeking and saving the lost will always be despised for their supposed arrogance.The Church is notorious for its course corrections. Toward the end of the 19th century, theological liberals began to emphasize the humanness of Christ. They presented Christ's life as the main focus of the gospel. Evangelicals reacted by emphasizing the atoning work of Christ (especially as explained by Paul), almost to the exclusion of the life of Christ. So liberals concentrated on good deeds and evangelicals on saving souls.

But by the middle of the 20th century, we evangelicals realized our mistake. Carl F. H. Henry's The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism in 1947 and the Lausanne Covenant of 1974 were landmark documents leading us to once again see social concern as an element of the church's mission. Some evangelicals gave greater weight than before to the Gospels and the kingdom of God, while others advocated for a right-wing political agenda. But regardless of where we fell on the political spectrum, we were encouraged to engage the culture and seek to demonstrate the Christian ethic daily.

The old "evangelism versus social action" war was over—or so I believed. In Sri Lanka, I was devoted to raising up a "post-war" generation for whom social involvement and evangelism were natural outgrowths of commitment to Christ.

Neglecting Evangelism?

But lately some disconcerting trends—more course corrections, if you will—have left me feeling uneasy. I hear evangelicals talking a lot about justice and kingdom values but not proclaiming the gospel to those of other faiths and winning them for Christ. Of course, if someone asks them about Christianity, they will explain the gospel. Thus, some people will be converted to Christ through their witness.

But that is a woefully inadequate strategy. Most of the billions of people in the world who do not know Christ will not come and ask us. We need to take the initiative to go to them.

Earlier evangelicals emphasized proclamation, while liberals emphasized presence—living out our Christianity before the people among whom we live. I fear that the old "presence versus proclamation" battle has come back to the church, or will shortly. Some evangelicals are going down that same road, though they claim to believe in proclamation evangelism.

This is why I am calling for a fresh commitment to proactive evangelism. We can't wait for people to come to us—we must urgently go to them. We must look for ways to make contact with them and use all our creativity and determination to communicate the gospel.

Yes, I praise God that evangelicals have discovered the AIDS challenge. I am only sorry that it took us so long. In biblical times, God called his people to pay special attention to sojourners, widows, orphans, and the oppressed. AIDS patients are the equivalent of such people today.

I pray that many evangelicals will devote themselves to lifelong service with such marginalized groups, including the mentally ill, the homeless, and the neglected aged. And, as Moses and Jesus said, "You always have the poor with you" (Mark 14:7; Deut. 15:11), indicating that we will have a responsibility to the poor as long as this world exists.

However, we must remember that today our society has accepted AIDS ministry and social development as attractive avenues of service. Evangelism will never have that attraction. Those wanting to follow Christ in seeking and saving the lost will always be despised for their supposed arrogance.

We Christians in Asia, Africa, and Latin America get very sensitive when we are accused of being arrogant. We do not like to be associated with the colonial rulers who looked down on us and on our cultures.

Worse, nations are outlawing conversion through what is called coercion. Those evangelizing among non-Christians are being persecuted severely in many places of the world. So we face several obstacles that could stop our evangelistic momentum and replace it with more palatable agendas.

Stark Reality

How could we be guilty of such negligence? The following questions challenge our shortsightedness:

• In the sayings of Jesus, he talked much about the coming judgment. Do we? If not, the next generation won't believe it. One generation neglects the belief; the next generation rejects it.

• Jesus said, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?" The context shows that the Lord is talking about eternal destruction, which we can avert only by accepting his grace, denying self, taking up the cross, and following him. Does this perspective color the way we look at people who do not follow Jesus?

• Why did the Holy Spirit ensure that there are seven statements of Christ's Great Commission in the New Testament—one each in Matthew (28:18-20), Mark (16:15-18), and Luke (24:46-49), and two each in John (17:18; 20:21-23) and Acts (1:8; 10:42)? Is it not because Jesus believed that before he left, it was important to drill into his disciples' minds the priority of the work of saving souls for eternity?

Now of course the Great Commission would be meaningless if those who obeyed it did not also obey the Great Commandment to love God and our neighbor. And we must continue to challenge people with the dual responsibility to live the gospel in society and to take the gospel to the unreached.

The Language of Priority

Can we then say that evangelism must have priority over social concern? I have always been reluctant to use the language of priority. I have felt that such talk comes out of the Western desire to have things nicely lined up in a logical progression (e.g. God, family, and ministry).

I prefer to simply say that our calling is to be obedient to God totally. If God is in control of our lives, he will lead us so that we will give the proper place to the whole will of God for us.

But Satan is also active, and he does not like to see the population of heaven increase. He will do all he can to prevent Christians from making disciples by going to the nations, baptizing people, and teaching them the commands of the Lord (Matt. 28:19-20). I fear that many evangelicals have fallen into Satan's trap of upholding kingdom values to the diminution of God's call to proactively go after the lost and proclaim the gospel.

Yes, we are called to be holistic. But part of holistic Christianity surely is the statement of Christ that all earthly gain is worthless if a person loses his life to eternal destruction. The stark fact of lostness places before us the urgency of evangelism. No, such thinking is not common in some evangelical circles today. A theological faculty member of a university in Europe held a seminar a few years ago to discuss one of my books. One of the presenters, an evangelical scholar, faulted me for using the supposedly confusing term "lostness" when referring to those who do not believe in Christ.

As for me, I will do all I can to encourage people to live the Christian life in society. But I will also follow Christ's example in placing before Christians the fact of eternal damnation and the glory of eternal salvation.

And I will challenge them to follow the agenda of Jesus, who "came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10), reminding them of the advice of Jude, who said, "… save others by snatching them out of the fire" (Jude 23).

The Combined Witness of the Whole Church

I am reluctant to reinsert the priority argument. But we need clarity. Some will rightly say that because of calling or circumstances in some parts of the world, faithful Christians cannot always preach. They are called instead to social work, and government regulations prohibit combining social work with evangelism. Fair enough.

Even though Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka is an evangelistic organization, we did not do any gospel proclamation during our massive tsunami-relief operation in 2005, according to government rules. Integrity demanded that we not do what we love to do—persuade people to receive Christ's salvation. (I believe, of course, that people were impressed by the gospel simply by seeing the way Christians helped them. But we would not call that evangelism.)

After about four months of almost total immersion in tsunami relief, we returned to our primary call, evangelism, and in the process refused millions of rupees offered to us for new tsunami-related relief projects. This does not mean that we do no social work now. As a youth organization, we do a lot of things, especially in education, to help youth from economically poor backgrounds advance in life. But we try not to tie that work too closely with evangelism. We do not want people to think that our help is tied to conversion.

In Nepal, Christian missionaries have been laboring faithfully for over 50 years, doing social work in the name of Christ. Evangelism, however, has been prohibited. For the first 30 years of this ministry, they saw little evangelistic fruit, but in the past 20 or so there has been an amazing evangelistic harvest of hundreds of thousands of people coming to Christ through the work of local Christians. I believe the faithful witness of the missionaries played a major role in helping people listen to the gospel as proclaimed by the Nepalese.

So, yes, some parts of the body of Christ may be called to do things other than proclaiming the gospel of eternal salvation, though they would verbally advocate other aspects of the kingdom agenda—such as justice, fair play, and righteous values. Indeed, every Christian needs to be committed to the whole gospel, seeking to be a personal witness through life and word.

To that end, Christian social-service organizations must ensure that their workers are not only committed to their social work, but also to Christ as Lord of their lives. So even though verbal witness may not be part of their job descriptions, they need to be committed to it in their personal lives.

Let me also add that much of the church's witness through social engagement and human rights advocacy will be done by laypeople who go into the structures of society and live out their Christianity. The local church and Christian organizations should teach the laity a truly biblical approach that motivates and guides them in their service. No one disputes that we must apply the Scriptures to the social issues of the day in our preaching and teaching. Pastors should also pray for laypeople serving in society and advise, comfort, and encourage them. For example, John Wesley sent his last letter to William Wilberforce encouraging him in his antislavery campaign.

Practical realities will dictate that not every segment of the church will be involved in all forms of proactive evangelism and all forms of social engagement. Parachurch organizations will indeed specialize, while being committed to the whole mission of the church. Local churches will do a little of most aspects of the mission of the church.

But taken together, the whole body of Christ will be engaged in the whole mission of the church. As the Lausanne movement puts it, the whole church must take the whole gospel to the whole world.

The tendency among some evangelicals to downplay verbal proclamation—including persuading people to receive Christ's salvation—demands a fresh call for evangelicals to emphasize the urgency of proactive evangelism. And if talk of priority will help the church to a fresh commitment, then so be it.

Christ certainly seems to share that priority: "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?" (Matt. 16:26).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Holy Worldly Church

By Dr Mark Chan, Coordinator of Faith and Society, CSCA, Trinity Theological College

Christians learn from young that they are to be 'in the world' yet not 'of the world'. Implicit in this is the twin conviction that believers are

a) to live out their faith within the realities of everyday life, and
b) to guard against becoming so identified with the ungodly system of our world
that they lose their distinctive identity. This paradoxical stance of being rooted in the world and yet not at home in it comes out of the fact that Christians are simultaneously citizens of (particular nations in) this world and citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Two questions are relevant in this connection:
'Where in the world is the church?'
'Where in the church is the world?'

Where in the World is the Church?

This question is both a lament and a challenge. It is a lament in that it wonders if the institutional church is not so mired in her parochial concerns that she is frankly out of touch with the many pressing issues of our times; and it is a challenge in that it summons the church to her responsibility as the agent of God's Kingdom within the kingdoms of the world.

God is deeply in love with the world. If God loved the world enough to send his Son to die for it, surely he's interested in what's happening to it and in it. His redemptive plan is aimed not just at the reconciliation of sinners to himself but also the restoration of all creation. Did the Lord not teach us to pray that the Kingdom might be manifested 'on earth as it is heaven' (Matt 6:10)?

The Christian faith is a world-transforming faith. To be sure, it is about spiritual transformation of the heart; but it does not stop there. Our faith may be personal, but it is never privatized. To retreat to a spiritual ghetto is to forfeit our birthright as God's people called to be with him and to serve his purposes in the world.

Unfortunately, the church's involvement in the world often extends no further than mounting evangelistic forays to rescue souls from damnation, or performing good works aimed at alleviating the distresses of people. While these activities are integral to the Christian calling in the world, they do not exhaust the church's call to be salt and light in the world.

The church is to be actively engaged in the public square where the important issues of life are debated and decided. The gospel is public truth, and as mediators of the Gospel in the world, Christians have a responsibility to relate the claims of the gospel to social issues such as racism, inter-religious harmony, marital breakups, and the changing face of the family, the spread of infectious diseases, ethics in biomedical research, economic disparity, etc.

More than just social activism, the church needs to be intellectually engaged, to win not the heart of people but also their mind. On matters of public morality for instance, the church must make her prophetic voice heard in language and terms that make sense in our pluralistic public square. Christians can ill afford to be uninformed and uninvolved about developments in the world.

The 'governing authorities' have been appointed by God to promote the good and to restrain and punish every evildoers (Romans 13:1-7, cf. John 19:11), and Christians as concerned citizens are expected to contribute responsibly to the maintenance of a social order that mirrors the scriptural vision of Shalom. Insofar as the state is committed to justice and righteousness, Christians are to submit to its authority and work with and within its structures to bring about the common good.

When Jesus tells his disciples to 'render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's' (Matthew 22:21), He not only legitimises the state apparatus but also delimits the state's sovereignty. To give back to Caesar what is his implies that the state has the right to receive tribute from its citizens. But this is not an absolute authority, for that belongs to God alone. Yet it is when Christians submit wholly to God that they are imbued with a vision and empowered to seek the welfare of the nation.

The church has a priestly role in society as well. This entails imploring God on the behalf of the world and interceding for political leaders and all who are in positions of influence (media moguls, financial czars, law lords, etc), so that Christians may live peaceful and quite lives in all godliness (1Timothy 2:11, Titus 3:1f).

Where in the Church is the World?

One reason for the church's neglect of the public square may well be because the world has already colonised the church. Here is a call to see if the church has unwittingly imbibed ideals, values, and practices that are contrary to God's will. Nothing dilutes the Christian's devotion and witness in the world quite like being enmeshed in ungodly worldliness.

In seeking to revitalize the church's public weakness, we must necessarily talk about the holiness of the church. Only a holy church can respond to the call of holy worldliness. The Christians' commendation of wholesome and upright living in the world rings hollow if it is not embodied in the lives of believers. Therefore we need to ask in what areas of life in the church have we allowed the world to determine our agenda. Paul's advice is apt in this regard, "Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking" (Romans 12:2).
The Christian church owes it to the world to invest in the formation of moral citizens who will contribute positively to the common good.

We serve the world best by being what we have been created by God to be: a distinct and holy people called out from the world of sin and inducted into the counter-cultural community of God the King. Being good citizens of God's kingdom has a direct impact on whether we are good citizens of our nation. We are of no earthly good if we compromise our identity in order to gain acceptance or win the popularity contest. Maintaining our distinctiveness means that the church cannot be co-opted by any political party. She forfeits her position as God's ambassador when she puts the coercive power of the state behind her truth claims or when her voice becomes nothing more than an echo of the state's policies. The Church and the State should not be confused.

Conclusion


The call to holy worldliness is the call to deny oneself and to take up the cross. The chruch that is for God and the world must bear the image of the sacrificial Lamb of God. For just as Christ was broken and shared for the salvation of the world, the church too must be marked by the same eucharistic self-giving if she is to be God's good news in the world.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Valley of Vision

Our longtime friend at the Forum, Edward Sim aka Gummiebear (one of my all time favorite childhood cartoons!) just started a blog called Valley Of Vision, translating excellent materials in Mandarin and already it looks very promising. He translated the following from Carson's preaching notes:

权柄与耶稣基督有关
真理并不一定产生信心,也有可能导致不信。我将真理告诉你们,你们就因此不信我。 (约翰 8:45) 这节经文令人惊讶之处,在于真理与不信的关系。因为耶稣将真理告诉犹太人,导致了他们的不信。


许多的哲学可能将真理分成两种:Propositional(表示真理是可以以各种命题一一阐述)
或者 Personal(表示真理是生活化位格化的)。虽然在约翰福音里,基督曾将宣告“我是真理!…”,但是这只是仅仅一次罢了。反之,在约翰福音里,有8次类似“若非你们相信。。。(某个命题)。。。,你不能得救”的句子。基督徒可以相信真理既是Propositional, 也是Personal的,不需要在两者之间做出选择。


圣经的清晰(Claritas Scriptura)

圣经是清晰易了的。这个教义的形成或多或少受到历史时代的影响。此教义强调的最强时,正是宗教改革更正的时期。当时的罗马天主教已经形成了解经必须通过天主教的训导权(Magisterium)。天主教此教义的形成,给予的原因是圣经过于难懂,如果让一般信徒自己解经,将会造成混乱和分歧。改革宗的先驱们极力反对,因为这样无疑把教会的权柄放在圣经之上。教会应该伏在圣经的权柄底下。

后现代主义带来冲击。硬派的后现代主义者强调一切,根本上来说,是未可知的。因为我们的有限,我们看待任何一样事情都是有观点的(Perspectivalist)。如此,我们没有人能够掌握确实的知识。基督徒可以承认自己的有限,也同意每个人都是有观点的局限。唯有神不受观点的限制,因为神是全知的。但是,基督徒不需要因此而就同意说我们未能掌握确实的知识。尤其是因为经文常常提到,神如此说是要我们知道之类的言语。因此,我们能够有确据地知道认识,是圣经已经假设的前提。

圣经的清晰并不意味着所有的经文都一样清楚,所有的解经家有同等的恩赐,所有的解释都正确。也不意味着我们不需要教师,因为圣经清楚显示神将教师赐给教会。但是教师的权柄是伏在圣经之下的。 圣经是人人皆有可能理解的,并非某小群人的专利。认识圣经的途径是可以学习传授的,不是任何一种说不出的奥秘或魔术。

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Open Source Mission

There is a new ministry initiative launching publicly this week called Open Source Mission (OSM). OSM is a non-profit initiative to enable translation of contemporary evangelical materials from English to various languages through the power of mass collaboration. Some of us who frequent this blog have been working on this in various ways over the past few months so we're excited that it's now unveiled and launched.

OSM is founded on the belief that accessibility to biblically sound content is of strategic importance to the vitality of the growing churches worldwide. In particular, we see an opportunity to bring translated Christian materials to the non-English speaking world by taking advantage of technology innovation and an “open source”, participatory model of translation. Our vision is to create a new, revolutionary, framework for translation by combining the following components:

• Global social network of volunteer translators
• Proven “open source” methodology
• Web 2.0 collaboration platform

In essence, what we hope to see are several ongoing translation projects fueled by the passion and skills of volunteer translators, resulting in an online reference portal of translated books and articles in a multitude of languages – all available for free.

The distinctive focus of OSM is simple -

Mass Collaboration - We want to enable translation through the mass collaboration of volunteer translators. We believe the Web 2.0 world has opened unique opportunities for collaboration through a community participatory model. Such models have been proven successful in other arenas. By applying methodologies similar to those used in an open source software projects like Linux or Web 2.0 projects like Wikipedia, we hope to effectively tackle the translation challenge.

Contemporary Gospel Centric Writings - We want to focus on contemporary, evangelical, gospel centric materials. We’re not interested in doing Bible translations – that’s best left to professionals. Nor are we planning to tackle historical writings (i.e. Puritans, Reformers, early Church Fathers) - there are sufficient hurdles in bridging the translation and cultural gap without undertaking the challenge of a historical gap as well. We're initially focused on contemporary translations from our partner organizations.

Leveraging Technology - We want to leverage technology to make these materials accessible. We believe that the trajectory of technology adoption in the developing nations means that the most effective and inexpensive way to get materials to our fellow Christians in these nations is to provide this material on the web, searchable, cross referenceable and free.

OSM, together with partners like Sovereign Grace Ministries, Desiring God, 9 Marks and other like-minded organizations, will work on the Gospel Translation Project. The Gospel Translation Project involves building a "wikipedia type" portal of translated content at www.gospeltranslations.org. (Disclaimer: the portal is currently in beta and content is still being loaded onto the site.)

Initially, our focus will be to work on translating materials from the aforementioned partners who have generously contributed to our translation permissions library.

If you find this intriguing, interesting, or possibly even inspiring, here’s how to get involved:

1. Check out the OSM website , learn more about what we do , offer feedback and please pray for the ministry.

2. If you are bilingual, please consider using your language skills in one of our projects. You can sign up on the OSM website or email our Ministry Coordinator, Andrew Mahr - andrew@opensourcemission.com. By participating in one of our projects, your contribution will impact your fellow Christians for years to come.

3. Please help spread the word. If you're a blogger, please consider blogging about OSM and the Gospel Translation Project. This is a grassroots movement and thrives on individual volunteer initiative. If you should blog on this, please let others know of the need for translation and issue a gracious call for bilingual Christians to consider participating in this.

4. Link to Open Source Mission on your sidebar and let us know. We need help to make this work and we'd love to have you get involved in some way...even if you can't translate.



We have a number of willing translators in Malaysia and Indonesia but we would be glad to get more help. There are translation projects starting up in a number of languages including Bahasa, Chinese, Korean and Spanish. If you can speak any of these languages, please consider lending your help.

Tragedy Of Restlessness

By Y.Y.Yap
"The Tragedy of Restlesness" was delivered at the Headstart Leaders'
Spiritual Retreat
, 16-18 September 2005.

If I were to ask you to just rest and do nothing all of today, what
will you do? Grab a newspaper, turn on the TV, logon the web, maybe do some shopping or balance your accounts?

If I told you, your food & clothing for all of this year is taken care of - what will you do with your life? Book a holiday? Climb the Himalayas? Read all the books you've bought in the last year? The tragedy of our ultra-modern life is there simply is no time for rest, and even if there was - we no longer know how to.

Our culture is such that we are constantly distracted - by ads, news
flashes, SMS-es, latest movie releases, etc. We have made life so
zippingly fast-paced, that we can't catch up with ourselves any more. Anything we do, buy, read today is obsolete by the time we lay hands on it - somebody is inventing something better right now, a new discovery is being published today, the way you operate has been superceded by a smarter method.

Sadly, though we are so breathless playing catch-up trying to stay focussed we no longer know what is rest much less how to get it.

At a time when we need to recover our humanity and meaning the most, we are swept away by a tide of artificial substitutes. Hollywood, MTV, the tourism and food industry make sure of that. What entertainment and every kind of sensual indulgence offers is a quick-fix, temporary relief, fleeting moments of pleasurable but imaginary escape which leaves us only more hungry, empty and lonely than before. But then, we've got to get back to work - who has time to think about it?

In a similar situation of exhaustion and starvation, Jesus, recognising the urgent need for recovery and nourishment intervened:
'"Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while." (For
there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)

And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. (Mark 6:31-32, NASB)'

I love the passage for what it doesn't say as much as what it does.
Jesus doesn't say, 'Go away for awhile and come back ready to work again.' He doesn't send you away only when you are fatigued beyond use, and for the sole purpose of rehabilitating the workforce. And it isn't one of those company motivation and indoctrination retreats just to make you more aggressive and productive.

The invitation is threefold: it is to 'come away' (NASB) - drawing
away/detaching ourselves from the work when it has become damaging to the soul. Work itself is not the enemy, it is when work has overtaken the heart that perspective sorely needs to be restored. There are warning signs and we must learn to recognise them.

Secondly it is to 'come with me' (NIV) - a leaving of the things that have robbed you of your inner joy and tunneled your spiritual vision, to return to the real heart, purpose and goal of our lives, Jesus.

And thirdly, for a good reason: 'they had no leisure so much as to eat' (KJV). No leisure, so much as to eat! This rendition in the KJV makes a sharp point and Maslow would be quick to point out - that if the disciples were so consumed by the work they couldn't even eat, you can imagine how spiritually and emotionally starved they must have already become.

We will explore in further sessions this important invitation. What are the things that erodes our lives, keeping us from our true identity and a growing intimacy with God?

In the face of massive opposition and danger, David says: 'One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,' but if he can't get that, he'll settle for just one day. 'Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.' (Psalm 84:10, NIV). He makes the difficult choice of choosing, like Mary, 'the better thing.'

In my final year of Masters, I suffered a serious health problem. I was so stressed from working on my final dissertation, and studying for the exit exams, and leading a church, and speaking in the student CF, I developed peptic ulcer disease that required large doses of opioids for pain-relief.

In that difficult period going through gastroscopies, ultrasounds and drug therapy - I discovered I also had gallstones and fatty deposits in the liver. I was obese, and the repressed stress had been burning away at my stomach lining. I was forced to work through the deeper issues at work.

By God's grace and much, much love from my wife and others around me, I soon realised I was chronically depressed, easily irritable, quietly bitter and prone to rage. Compulsive overeating was one of the complications of my masked depression. Coming to terms with my adrenaline addiction and stress-burnout pattern, I learnt some crucial skills for early recognition and intervention. The first few months were tough-going, subjecting myself to rigid monitoring and journaling my feelings, but in time the hard labor bore fruits of much peace, improved relationships, and best of all - I lost
20kgs of weight!

You may not have come to such serious consequences of stress-burnout in your life, but we all need to learn the skills of recognizing it, hearing Jesus' invitation to 'come away' and give ourselves permission to rest. We need to move from denial, through anger (blaming everyone else for our restlessness), to acceptance (that we need rest), to change (taking responsibility for getting rest.)

For Reflection and dialog:
1. Have you suffered burnout recently?
2. What steps led to it? What were its consequences for you?
3. Were there early signs of stress and burnout for you?
4. What steps do you need to take to 'give yourself permission' to rest - do you have difficulty doing that?

NeuroScience And Christianity (I)

By Ron Choong: This 21st century has been hailed as the century of the mind. Brain/Mind studies are now the hottest subjects in both science and philosophy. I hope to persuade you that it ought to also be the hottest subject in Christian theology.

In the last 50 years, the various fields of inquiry dealing with the physical brain and its expression as the mind, has begun to converge. Disparate fields such as cognitive psychology, molecular biology, neurobiology, moral philosophy, consciousness studies and philosophy of mind, to note a few, have found themselves trampling on each other’s sacred ground. Advances in PET and fMRI technology have emboldened experimentalists to make inferences and predictions that impact our understanding of human behavior. For the first time, we are able to ‘look’ inside a living brain while it is thinking and make some crude but valuable measurements about its workings, principally its consumption rates of sugar and oxygen. Using false color imaging, we can locate areas of neuronal activity in real time. These exciting advances in technology demand equally exacting theories of science to interpret what we observe to convert knowledge into understanding. Here lies our Achilles’ heel. We are always far better at acquiring information than we are at interpreting them. This has been historically true of the revealed religions of the world. In the Christian faith, the early founders pass on what they claim to be divine revelation encoded in texts of human language. While its preservation has mostly been successful, great debates continue to rage over its precise interpretation. Thus we find in both the science of mind (neuroscience) and theological reflection of the Bible, the imperative of epistemic hermeneutics. We are concerned with making sense of what we know so that we can achieve understanding.

In this series of Neuroscience & Theology (NST) seminars, we shall explore various topics in which our increasing knowledge about how our brain works (or rather, how it may seem to work) may offer correctives to our best interpretations of what it means to be human (made in the image of God). This is not a quest for a scientific account of the Bible nor is it a theological account of neuroscience. Rather, it is an attempt to seek a convergence of understanding who we are in the light of the Christian Bible aided by responsible study of the scriptures, critical theological and philosophical reflection, and assessment of scientific inferences drawn from experimental and theoretical work in the sciences of the brain. The primary field of inquiry is theological in nature and is purpose is to achieve a better understanding of our relationship to our creator.

Central to the Christian doctrine of humanity is the claim that we were made in the image of God. Theologians have long included among the many meanings of this, the possession of moral consciousness. It is the existence and function of morality that is at the heart of the conversation between the neurosciences and theology. The method of analysis we shall follow assumes that both the modern sciences and reflective theology are different but not incompatible sources of knowledge about reality. This means that a quest to understand the human nature and our sense of morality ought to consider both what the Bible teaches about why we think as we do and what the modern sciences infer about how we think as we do.

Although theology is concerned with truth claims received by faith as true, its implications engage the world of the sciences and medical therapy. (1) Similarly, although both the basic and the social sciences are limited to explaining the biological and psychological mechanics of how moral behavior plays out, such explanations often veer towards making theological statements. (2) It is therefore important for both science and theology to be open to mutual correction when necessary, for theological reflection itself relies on the art and science of interpretation based on our reasoning strategies, which themselves are shaped by our prior understanding, control beliefs, and adoptive authorities.

Thus we note that philosophy, religion and the sciences are inextricably intertwined. Indeed, what we now call philosophy used to be called metaphysics; religion used to be under the rubric of moral philosophy; and modern science used to be called natural philosophy. In fact, no academic discipline is truly free from theological implications and no theological doctrine is free from engagement with every human sphere of cultural influence. This series of lectures seeks to examine some of the theological implications of philosophy and science as commonly misunderstood by some proponents who commit the Aristotelian ‘category mistake’ of mixing methodologies. The lesson to learn is that a responsible apologetic theology must account for the provisional but influential findings of contemporary religious philosophies and the natural sciences. This is the central concern of the Academy for Christian Thought as we minister both to those outside and inside the Church by offering a theological safe space (TSS).

Among the many issues raised by the ‘new science of mind’, as the Nobelist Eric Kandel calls it, are the characteristics of the human mind that mark us off as human:

the existence of a universal morality (3).
the reality and nature of free-will (4 ,
the location and nature of consciousness (5),
the structure and function of memory (6),
the role of experience in perception and reasoning (7),
the implications of emotions such as fear and love (8),
the process by which we make judgments (9), and

In the first of this series, we shall consider the existence of a universal morality, or a universal moral grammar, as Marc Hauser (10) calls it.

I shall post abstracts of future chapters soon, stay tuned

Monday, October 29, 2007

FAQ: Homosexuality

"Roland Chia addressed some common FAQs on this hot issue in 'Questions and Answers on Homosexuality' published in "Church and Society in Asia Today", 2004 Volume Seven, Number One

Objection 1. The Bible does not condemn all homosexual relationships but only those that are exploitative and promiscuous.

This viewpoint states that homosexual practices in the Greco-Roman world of Paul in the first century have to do with pederasty - sex between an adult male and an adolescent boy. It states that it is this exploitative form of homosexuality that the New Testament condemns.

This objection cannot be supported by the Scripture passages (in both Testaments) that deal with homosexuality. This is simply because in all these passages homosexual practices are rejected without specifying the age of the participants. Furthermore, the rejection of lesbianism in Romans 1:26 shows that what is referred to here and elsewhere is not just pederasty but all forms of homosexual relationships since lesbianism in the ancient world was not confined to pederasty alone. The argument that the biblical passages on homosexuality are irrelevant to the contemporary world because they have to do with pederastic forms of homosexuality is therefore untenable.

Objection 2. Since the Bible does not talk about the idea of a ‘homosexual orientation’ same-sex passion was thought to have originated in over-sexed heterosexuals and therefore condemned.


This viewpoint states that since modern society does not regard homosexuality as originating from insatiable heterosexual lust, we should not condemn homosexuality in our society.

Some scholars interpret Romans 1 on the basis of this theory. According to this approach, in Romans 1, Paul was not condemning homosexuals but perverse heterosexuals who have sexual relations with members of their own sex because of their insatiable lust. This reinterpretation of the Biblical passages does not stand up to careful scrutiny. In Romans 1:26 Paul refers to females who "exchanged" sexual
intercourse with men for intercourse with other females, and to men who "abandoned" sex with women for sex with men. The word "abandon" implies that these males were exclusively oriented to other males. It weakens the argument that Paul was exclusively referring to the homoeroticism of heterosexual males and not to homosexual acts in general.

Thus, there is no evidence that Paul saw homoeroticism as excessive heterosexual passion and had opposed homosexual practices of this sort.

Paul was not referring to certain individuals. He was speaking generally, and therefore was making the point that all homosexual acts are against nature. Furthermore the source of homoeroticism is not the main part of Paul’s opposition to homosexual intercourse. The reason for his opposition is that such practices are unnatural, meaning that they fail to conform to God’s design of heterosexual relationship within monogamous marriage.

Objection 3. Since we do not follow all the injunctions of the Bible, why should those on homosexual practices be binding?

This viewpoint points out that few churches would require women to wear veils during worship as Paul requires them to in 1 Corinthians 11:1-6. Hence, not all the commands in the Bible are being followed. Why, then, should we follow the biblical teaching regarding homosexual practices?

However, the command against homosexual practices in the Bible is found in both Testaments and therefore very difficult to avoid or ignore. In both the Old and New Testaments, the forbidding of homosexuality is persuasive and absolute. There are no dissenting voices and alternative judgements on such practices. The command is absolute in the sense that it includes every form of homoerotic sexual practice without exception. As we have seen under Objection 2, it is not limited to only certain forms of exploitative homosexuality. Finally, both Testaments stress the severity of the command. In the Old Testament, those found disobeying it would be
punished by death (Lev 20:13). In the New Testament Paul places it alongside idolatry (1 Cor 6:9).

Read on for more insights on a difficult topic

Monday, October 22, 2007

Emerging Church

The Ichthus Research Centre at
SINGAPORE BIBLE COLLEGE

The Emerging Church Seminar

Speaker: Professor D.A. Carson
Date: Friday 26th October 2007
Time: 2.00-3.30 pm
Place: 4th floor, Worship Hall, Block 7
Singapore Bible College
9-15 Adam Road, Singapore 289886

Admission is free

The is held in conjunction with the Preaching Conference held in the Singapore Bible College on 26th and 27th October 2007.

more details on their website

Friday, October 19, 2007

Godliness: The Spiritual Theology of the English Puritans

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Godliness:
The Spiritual Theology of the English Puritans


Is holy living still relevant today?
Come and find out about Godliness
through the lives and beliefs of a
special group of Christians


by
Rev Dr Samuel Ling
(Sessions will be conducted in English)

29-31 Oct 2007

7.30 - 9.45 p.m
(15min break in between)
Free Admission, love offering will be collected


Geylang Chinese Methodist Church
52 Aljunied Road
Singapore 389820
(Main santuary)
Next to Aljunied MRT


About the Speaker

Rev Samuel Ling is president of China Horizon (www.chinahorizon.org), a Reformed teaching ministry in theology and apologectics. His passion is in teaching doctrine; Biblical theology; church history; Cornelius Van Til's apologectics; Puritanism; and biblical (nouthetic) counseling. Rev Stephen Tong calls him "the most consistant Reformed thinker in the Chinese community." Currently he and China Horizon conduct regular courses in Washington DC, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Rev Ling recieved his A.B from the University of Pennysylvania; the M.Div. and Th.M from Westminister Theological Seminary; and Ph.D. in history (church history) from Temple University. His doctoral dissertation dealt with the interaction of the church and the Anti-Christian Movement among China's intellectuals. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, and did church planting in New York City, and served as senior pastor of a historic Chinese church in Chicago.

He is professor of historical and systematic theology at International Theological Seminary under Dr Joseph Tong, and has lectured in Westminster, Covenant, Regent, Alliance, Wheaton, Fuller and other seminaries in Asia and North America. He is author of 500 articles and edited a number of books. He is the founder of ChinaSource, a research-based catalyst for partnership in Christian service. Since1997, he and his family live in Los Angeles.


Organized by Stemi Singapore

Saturday, October 06, 2007

God And Technology



An event organised by Graduate Christian Fellowship of Singapore. For more details, contact Simon Chia, Admin/Programme Manager (Graduates' Christian Fellowship)
Tel: 6338 6283 Fax: 6338 2054

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Can We Do "Tai Chi"?

Dr Alex Tang wrote a good discussion on "Christian and Tai Ji Quan" (Read the entire article here):

"There are Christians who believe that Christians should not involve themselves in all types of martial arts because these martial arts have their origin from the Eastern religious traditions (Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Animism). However there are other Christians who believe that it is possible to separate the physical aspects of the martial arts from their spiritual aspects. Then the physical aspects can be practiced as a form of exercise and for self-defense. One example is taiji quan, which can be, practiced by all age groups especially the elderly. Throughout the history of the Church, there have been many examples of the Christians taking a pagan festival, removing its spiritual contents and adopting it as a Christian festival. Notable examples is Christmas (worship of Saturn by Romans and Yule festival by the Scandinavians) and Sunday (Sun God Day).

For those Christians who believe it is possible to separate the physical and spiritual aspects of taiji and embrace the physical aspects as a form of exercise, I would offer the following guidelines:

(1) Regard the graceful rhythmic movements of taiji quan as physical exercise, as one would with aerobics. Remember that our bodies are temples of God (1 Corinthians 3:16) and we are to take good care of it.

(2) Meditate on the goodness of God as you go through the various movements. Do not leave your mind blank but use the time for Christian meditation and prayer. The Bible also teaches about the need to achieve balance in our body, mind and soul.

(3) Discuss your reservations with your instructor. Find out his or her view of taiji and whether the instructor regard taiji as purely a physical exercise or religious. Avoid instructors who regard taiji as religious exercise. See what is being taught in the advance classes. Some instructors only introduce religious meditation and instructions in the advanced classes. Learn from instructors who regard taiji quan as exercise.

(4) Avoid learning in dojo or hall that have a shrine. Traditional dojo is a place devoted to religious exercises watched over by the dojo’s spirits. Open spaces like a park would be an ideal place to practice taiji.

Conclusion

When Paul was teaching about food offered to idols, he is teaching in a culture similar to ours (Romans 14:14-18). He taught there is nothing wrong with eating food offered to idols as long as we are convinced that it is alright. What corrupt our soul is not what we eat but what is in our hearts. However, if by eating food offered to idols will stumble a fellow Christian, then we are to avoid it. It is the same with taiji quan. If we are convinced that we can benefit from it as a physical exercise, are aware of its spiritual snares and it does not stumble our brothers and sisters then we should practice it. Let us remind ourselves that our mandate is to redeem culture and the Holy Spirit who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mind The Sun-Mon Gap I



Courtesy of Graduate Christian Fellowship, we had Dr Gordon Preece to share with us on Minding The Gap between sacred/secular, Sun-Mon. He made an interesting observation that in the epic of Gilgamesh, men were created to be slaves for the gods, for hard manual labor in their service. Leisure was the right and privilege of the god-kings i.e. Egypt, Parthenon.

How radically different and subversive was the Genesis account of creation, where God created Adam and Eve on the sixth day, and when He rested, humanity rested too. The pattern of rest and work in the Sabbath is applied to all, regardless of social class.

Lausanne paper on Marketplace Ministry:

"The loss of the creation commission/mandate has detrimental effects on Christians
who are not directly engaged with people-type or evangelistic work, who work with
technology, material things or are engaged in wealth creation. These Christians often feel like second-class believers who have to pretend to be social workers at work. A chemical engineer when asked about his faith and work at an InterVarsity Graduates Fellowship meeting, described it in terms of the people-side of serving clients as if he were a social worker, but failed to mention that he had developed a less pollutant pesticide that fulfils the creation commission.

In contrast, Crawford W. Long, M.D., who discovered the use of sulphuric ether
as an anaesthetic in surgery on March 30, 1840 and whose statue stands in the US Senate building in the state of Georgia, was attributed with these words, ‘My profession is to me a ministry from God.’ Consider also Professor Graeme Clark, the Australian developer of the bionic ear who has brought hearing to over 50,000 people worldwide. His scientific passion for the creation/dominion mandate and for alleviating the suffering of hearing-impaired humanity (including his father) combined with his front-page and televised witness to Christ, represents a very balanced and inspiring expression of all three mandates." (i.e. creational, relational, evangelistic commissions)

The Historical Reliability of the Old Testament

By Dr Leong Tien Fock

The Bible has been subjected to an incredibly extensive and intensive scrutiny by critics. Yet, unless one only reads the critics' work, it has not only survived the trial but has in fact thrived in it. Christians should be familiar with a defense of the Bible even in the absence of an offense. For the intellectual and spiritual climate we live in is such that the claims of the Bible do not seem or feel real. We need to be able to consciously affirm in our heart that the Bible is reliable and trustworthy.

The reliability of the Bible is fundamental to the credibility of the Christian faith. All Christian doctrines, including the doctrine of the Bible as the Word of God, are based on the Bible. Given the often vicious and seemingly credible attacks on the Bible, a Christian who is confronted with them may find his faith shaken or even shattered. This essay is written with the conviction that it is possible for anyone who is not already prejudiced against the Bible (or who is at least willing to temporarily suspend such a bias) to see that there is a remarkably solid basis to believe in the reliability of the Bible.

We will focus only on the Old Testament and use three criteria to establish the its reliability: the bibliographical test, the internal evidence test, and the external evidence test. These common-sense tests, often used to test the reliability of the New Testament, cannot be said to be biased towards the Bible. For they are postulated by military historian C. Sanders in his 1952 book, Introduction to Research in English Literary History. The tests are most suitable for our purpose not only because they are not biased towards the Bible. Since they are employed in testing the reliability of general historical and literary documents, they are also most suitable because we are testing the reliability of the OT as a literary-historical and not as a religious document (thus its claim to divine origin will not be assumed).

Read on for more information on:

Bibliographical Test
Internal Evidence Test
External Evidence Test
Concluding Remarks

Taming Of The Pew II



Gordon Preece on the Sun-Mon Gap:

Over 70 years ago, G.A. Studdert Kennedy asserted that:

"A very large number of the people who attend our services and partake of the sacrament are disassociated personalities. They are one person on Sunday and another on Monday. They have one mind for the sanctuary and another for the street. They have one conscience for the church and another for the cotton factory. Their worship conflicts with their work, but they will not acknowledge the conflict. I want to press home what seems to me to be obvious, that while this unfaced conflict
exists, the soul is not on the road to salvation."

Likewise, a contemporary ditty says: ‘Mr Business went to church, that’s what he did on Sunday, Mr Business went to hell for what he did on Monday’. We could say the same of other professions.

In their defence, many marketplace Christians, including increasing numbers of paid
working women, feel justifiably marginalised from their churches. Thousands make up the rapidly increasing legion of unchurched Christians in the West.16 Their workaday concerns are often banished from the pulpit and public worship, prayer and pastoral care. In one survey, 90-97% said they had never heard a sermon on work.17 One Christian in Singapore who suggested a commissioning service on Teachers Day was told by his pastor that it was a great idea for Sunday School teachers.

Read on for this insightful paper by Lausanne

Bridging The Gap III



Excerpts from Lausanne paper on Marketplace Ministry:

"In Scripture there is no ancient or modern, eastern or western dualistically derived gap between private and public, faith and work, charity and justice. There we have many images of God as a worker (Genesis 1-2, John 5:17, Revelation 21:5), specifically as shepherd (Psalm 23), warrior (Exodus 15:3), teacher (Psalm 143:10, Proverbs 15:33), potter (Jeremiah 18:6, Romans 9:20-21) and as vinedresser (Isaiah 5:1-7, John 15:1-6).50 We also find that marketplace Christians such as Joseph, Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah, Lydia, Priscilla and Aquila are very prominent among God’s
people.

Against an individualistic reading of Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount, John
Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus 51 depicts the people of God as a city (polis) set on a hill as the light of the world, who are to let their light shine so that others can see their good work(s) and give God the glory (Matthew 5:16)...

Because God is a Worker - Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier - we need to re-link the
creation and evangelistic commissions or mandates. The creation commission’s go forth and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28 to Adam, cf. Genesis 9:7 to Noah, Genesis 12:1-3 to Abram) is behind the Great Commission’s ‘go’ into the world or as you go about your daily work and life (Matthew 28:18-20 cf. Matthew 10:7) as Leighton Ford stresses. When Jesus says ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,’ He claims dominion over all creation as the true and ultimate human activity.

As former Dutch Prime Minister, theologian and journalist Abraham Kuyper says: ‘There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus
Christ does not cry out, “This is mine! This belongs to me!’”

Dave: Some models of Christian workers were mentioned like Graeme Clark who invented the bionic ear by reflecting on God's creation i.e. seashell and theologian Kuyper who was active in organising trade unions, schools, journalism and established the Free University of Amsterdam.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Trinitarian Worship To The Trinity

LT Jeyachandran will lead discussion on trinitarian worship in today's churches. This is based on the questions raised by Edward:

1. To what extend and how are church services explicitly trinitarian?

2. How important is it that the congregation should be conciously worshipping a trinitarian God?

3. In what ways our worship services can be improved so that we can work towards a more trinitarian-concious faith?



Venue: Orchard Road Presbyterian Church (Dhoby Ghaut MRT), Dunman Basement
Time: 7.30pm - 9.30pm
Date: 25th July 2007, Wednesday

Admission is free. For more info, please contact Joshua Woo @ 92366672

Friday, July 06, 2007

Fide Vitae Resources


Just to share with everyone the birth of a much needed christian resource centre, Fide Vitae Resources.

It has a good range of books at very good prices so there's now another avenue now for people to get books besides places like etulip, shalom or bethesdal!

Fide Vitae will be having a Dedication Prayer Service this saturday for the official launching of Fide Vitae Resources so if anyone' free please feel free to drop by for a time of fellowship.=)

A little about Fide Vitae:

We were all born into a state of crisis, initiated into a life not by choice with an intrinsic sinful nature, to be disobedient to God desiring only to do anything other than true goodness. This state spans a whole lifetime and at the end of it destined us into eternal condemnation. Yet within this lifetime is the window of opportunity during which we could be salvaged out of this doomed destiny solely by the undeserved grace of God which are given freely to those whom He has called and responded.

Fide Vitae Resources is set up to serve as a platform and one of the instrument for God to effect His divine purposes allowing us to become partakers of His divine plans in the name of our savior and Lord Jesus Christ.


Resources are made readily available to those who hear His calling to affirm their faith so that the souls of repentance can come to rest in His heart. Activities and events are planned regularly in collboration with other co-workers to propagate His message of mercy and Love so that those who earnestly seek shall find. For the brethren who tread along the narrow path of light living by faith and yet clothed in mortal weakness, resources and seminars are organized to equip and arm ourselves so that we could loosen the grip of darkness in our remaining days emerging victorious to our Lord¡¦s glory in the end, serving as salt and light in the present era.


We will also integrate our activities with our social fabric to make cultural and lifestyle influences one of our objectives; so that our society would bear the nature of His grace. We should live our lives in super abundance which radiate the full glory of his grace; strive to seek and pursue justice and righteousness with love and compassion and bearing humility in our hearts at all time, sought to walk in step with God.
Our logo serves to represent the spirit of our mission and living hope. The intrinsic sin which our life begins with shriveled waiting to be shed off as new life regenerates in the up-reaching leaflets fed solely by the five roots of our faith.

* Sola gratia ("by grace alone")

* Sola fide ("by faith alone")

* Sola scriptura ("by Scripture alone")

* Solus Christus ("In Christ alone")

* Soli Deo gloria ("Glory to God alone")


It is our hope that the germination process would mature into a glorious tree bearing the fruits of Love grounded on a solid foundation of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.


Amen.