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