Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Reason For Our Hope

Audio Sermon on 1 Peter 3:13-16 Giving The Reason For Our Hope can be downloaded here. We need to communicate the gospel clearly, lovingly and compellingly by being thoughtful, informed, honest and humble ambassadors for Christ. We embody the gospel with our lives and declare the gospel with our words. We need to show the world a community worth seeing and a faith worth thinking about.

Giving a Reason for Our Faith

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Selfish Gene

Listen carefully the next time you overheard an argument in office or at home. For you may just stumble upon a powerful clue for God’s existence!

In his bestseller Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis observed that when we quarrel, we would often appeal to some higher Moral Law to which the other party is accountable. For example, it is common to hear people argue like this: “That’s my seat, I was here first”, “Give me a piece of your orange, I gave you some of mine” or “How do you like it if someone did the same to you?” Such arguments do not merely express our displeasure at someone’s behavior. They are actually appealing to a standard of right and wrong which we expect others to know about and ought to follow. Otherwise it would be as futile as claiming that a footballer had committed a foul without some agreement about the rules. This transcendent and universal Moral Law is a signpost pointing to God who is the Lawgiver.

But not everyone would agree. Popular writers such as Richard Dawkins and Robert Wright have tried to show that rudimentary forms of moral cognition can be found in animals as well. Here is a discussion on whether natural selection can account for morality as we know it available in the latest edition of Kairos Magazine.

The Selfish Gene: Monkeying With Morality

Monday, November 09, 2009

Book Review: Our Idea of God (T. V. Morris)

Many Christians have only a faint idea of what God is like. However, knowledge about God is too important to be reserved for experts only. It is crucial to a proper relationship with God and the world. But how do we start? Thomas V. Morris wrote “Our Idea Of God: An Introduction to Philosophical Theology” to provide non-specialists with an accessible introduction to philosophical theology.

There are different ways of doing theology or rational discourse about God. For example, systematic theology seeks to integrate diverse biblical teachings on a given topic (i.e. God’s power) into a coherent whole. In this book, the focus is to explore a concept of God that is both biblically faithful and rationally plausible. It seeks to do so by exploring theological concepts, presuppositions and their inter-related connections through primarily the methods and tools of philosophical reflections and observations about the universe. The present review would briefly survey how the author has approached the subject and evaluate the degree in which he has achieved his objective.

Morris started Chapter 1 as a defense for the possibility that finite beings like us could have a rational discourse about God. Basically, he sought to demonstrate as logically self-defeating the skeptics’ assertions that no human concepts or language could apply to the infinite God. How could one ‘know’ that God is utterly unknowable? However, the mere possibility of thinking and talking reasonably about God does not mean we can find sure ground for confidence. In Chapter 2, the author discussed the method of how we could go about doing it. At this stage, he proposed a methodology attributed to Anselm called ‘perfect being theology’ which I would elaborate on later. Subsequently, he put this method to the test in discussing major theistic concepts like God’s goodness, power, knowledge, being, eternity and creation. In the final chapter, he sought to vindicate the particularly Christian doctrines of Trinity and Incarnation as logically possible without watering down any of the mentioned divine attributes.

The discussion on methodology is the most crucial part of his thesis that deserves further discussion. Firstly, Morris rejected the approach to develop a concept of God from every claimant to divine revelation because it offers no measuring standard for conflicting truth claims. Secondly, he explored the approach of a purely biblical theology. However, the Bible is not a philosophical theology textbook. We may ask legitimate questions for constructing a comprehensive worldview that is compatible with biblical portrayal yet not strictly confined by what it already said. Thirdly, based on the biblical portrait of God as creator, we may also do ‘creational theology’ by inferring a First Cause whose nature would be sufficient to explain the existence of the universe. However, this approach would not tell us much about God’s character or how much power is required to do so . Finally, Morris proposed the procedure called perfect being theology. Following Saint Anselm, God is described as ‘that which no greater can be conceived’ or the Being with the greatest possible combination of intrinsically good properties.

Some immediate questions that arise would be “What is greater? Is He bigger? Is power intrinsically good?” Morris explained that we would consult our ‘value intuitions’ about what these great-making properties are. Here, he is not referring to some mystical subjectivism but naturally formed belief, ‘whose acceptance does not derive entirely from linguistic convention, evidence, testimony, memory, inference or sense experience’ . For example, we intuitively know that it is wrong to torture babies for fun and that 2+2 = 4. These beliefs should be considered ‘innocent until proven unreliable’. By consulting our intuitions, could we not arrive at the concept of God as ‘a thoroughly benevolent conscious agent with unlimited knowledge and power who is the necessarily existent, ontologically independent creative source of all else’ ?

Although I have some disagreements with the favorable review on Molinism, the methodology itself to be generally helpful to vindicate, augment and develop rationally what biblical revelation has unveiled . The treatments on God’s attributes were enlightening to gain a clearer picture on, for example, what we could conceive of omnipotence. Omnipotence doesn’t mean that God could actualize contradictions inconsistent with His own nature. The author has succeeded in showing that rational discourse about God is possible and fruitful in refining such ideas. I would suggest that the last chapter on “God Incarnate and Triune” would have immense apologetic value in dialogue with Muslim neighbors in Malaysian context. At least, it would help to remove some obstacles for those who believe that these doctrines are logically impossible.

However, I wonder if the perfect being method could even get off the ground if we start by consulting value intuitions. To his credit, Morris recognized that intuitions have defeasible epistemic status. An open theist friend would mistakenly feel that the ‘ability to be surprised’ is a great-making property a relational God should have which would necessarily limit His exhaustive foreknowledge. Could not another person who felt femininity as ‘intrinsically good’ employ the method to construct a goddess instead? If not by revelation, how would we ever be able to intuitively develop a concept of Trinity or Incarnation by proceeding from perfect being theology? Gerald Bray also made this caution, “To conceive of relative greatness is to assume that the scale is open-ended; it will always be possible to conceive of something greater than the maximum” . Although Morris does recognize that perfect being theology could be corrected, complimented and augmented by creational or biblical theology, it seems that we need to be more explicit in incorporating biblical theology as its starting point and controlling presupposition.

In summary, the author has been meticulous to argue for his method and applied it in a way that restated the basic contours of classical theism in a way that is sensitive to how these concepts interact with each other. He offered many helpful illustrations to make the abstract ideas more comprehensible to the target audience. Alternative views were fairly presented and evaluated in a concise and incisive manner. I believe that this book would benefit those who would seek to complement devotional fervor with rigorous reflections about our understanding of God and His attributes.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Every Story Whispers His Name

The Bible is not a book of rules, nor a book of heroes. There's only one Hero.

“The Bible is most of all a Story… It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life! You see, the best thing about this Story is--it's true! There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.”

This is Christ-centered hermeneutics so simply and elegantly framed in a children storybook written by Sally Lloyd Jones and beautifully illustrated by the award winning Jago. Having browsed through a friend's copy available at, I intend to buy one for my son too.

Here is a review from Tim Keller:
”Sally has captured the plot line of redemption in a children’s story Bible that sings the praise of Jesus and his saving grace on every page, in every story... To discover The Jesus Storybook Bible is to have a unique resource for communicating the gospel to children in all it’s fullness.”

Click here for a sampler

In many Sunday School lessons, biblical stories are used as moral lessons for children. "Be like Abraham, he obeys God". "Be brave like King David, he challenged Goliath". "Be strong like Samson, he wrestled with lions."

But what do we make of the parts where Abraham allow Sarah to be taken to save his own skin? Or David's famous murder of Uriah? Or Samson's downfall courtesy of Delilah?

It seems that the biblical stories took care to tell us (with brutal honesty) something not-so-clever or downright mean that these people have done. The point is not simply that they are heroes to be emulated. But they are also needy, fallen and sinful people that God loves and repeatedly saves. The overarching story is a story of grace and God is the hero who comes to the rescue. It's the gospel hidden everywhere in the entire Bible.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


KAIROS PUBLIC FORUM: Jesus of The Bible versus Jesus of the Documentaries (National Geographic/Discovery /BBC)

Date: Friday, 20 November 2009
Time: 8.30pm – 10.30pm
Venue: Hall 1, Dream Centre
2 Jalan 13/1, Seksyen 13
46200 Petaling Jaya
Selangor, Malaysia

Influential networks like National Geographic, Discovery and BBC Channels are propagating new portraits (or fabrications) of Jesus that distort if not contradict what Christians traditionally believe about Jesus for 2000 years.

This Kairos Public Forum seeks to explain why these TV producers rely on pagan Mystery Religions and 2nd century Gnosticism texts to reconstruct new portraits Jesus, what methods and assumptions inform the scholars who advise these media channels for their distorted views of Jesus. The Forum also offers evidence for the integrity of the New Testament Gospels as reliable historical records of Jesus’ life and ministry and critiques popular images of Christ in contemporary society.

1) The Fabricated Jesus of Contemporary TV Documentaries
Speaker: Mr. Philip Koh
(Partner of a legal firm in Kuala Lumpur and Director of Kairos Research Centre)

2) The Historical Christ of the New Testament: The Test of History
Speaker: Dr. Ng Kam Weng
(Research Director of Kairos Research Centre)

3) The Real Jesus Christ and Contextual Christs Today: Who makes the real difference?
Speaker: Rev. Dr. Tan Jin Huat
(Anglican minister and CTEE Director, Seminari Theoloji Malaysia)

Kairos Seminar on Jesus Christ and Early Christianity
There will be a follow-up seminar for those who want to learn in detail how contemporary research supports the historical accuracy and authenticity of the New Testament portrait of Jesus Christ.

Speaker: Dr. Ng Kam Weng

Date: Saturday 5 December 2009
Time: 9.30pm – 12.00 noon
Place: Dream Centre
To participate in this seminar contact Kairos office (Tel no: 7726 5420 or email:

Kairos Research Centre sends you early wishes for a very Blessed Christmas!
DC: Portrait of Jesus by Rembrandt