Friday, January 27, 2006

Petikan dari Malaysiakini

Petikan dari Malaysiakini ... apakah dapat kita renungkan cinta kita pada Isa AlMasih?

Cinta orang Hindu, cinta orang Islam
Rozmal MalakanJan 26, 06 5:55pm

Orang Hindu cintakan agama mereka, mereka pergi bersembahyang di kuil membawa semua ahli keluarga mereka, daripada cucu mereka yang masih dalam buaian hinggalah ke datuk nenek mereka yang bertongkat. Orang Islam cintakan juga agama mereka, tetapi jarang kelihatan mereka membawa ahli keluarga mereka daripada cucu hinggakan ke pangkat datuk apabila ada keraian di masjid, apatah lagi pada ketika solat Jumaat.

Orang Hindu cintakan agama mereka, semua ahli keluarga mereka berpakaian cantik dan bewarna-warni apabila pergi ke kuil. Orang Islam cintakan juga agama mereka, tetapi adakalanya pakaian pergi kerja lebih cantik dan kemas daripada pakaian apabila pergi ke masjid. Orang Hindu cintakan agama mereka, mereka menghiasi cermin kenderaan mereka dengan kata-kata ajaran Hindu yang memberi semangat kepada mereka untuk lebih menghayati agama mereka. Orang Islam cintakan juga agama mereka, tetapi jarang kelihatan menghiasi cermin kenderaan mereka dengan pelekat-pelekat yang membesarkan kalimah Allah.

Orang Hindu cintakan agama mereka, dimana mereka berada mereka akan membina tempat sembahyang tanpa mengharapkan sumbangan pihak berkuasa. Orang Islam cintakan juga agama mereka, tetapi sentiasa mengharapkan pihak berkuasa untuk mendirikan masjid atau surau.

Orang Hindu cintakan agama mereka, dimana mereka sentiasa pergi ke kuil untuk mendapat restu sami mereka. Orang Islam cintakan juga agama mereka, tetapi jarang bertemu para ulamak untuk mendapat restu mereka.

Orang Hindu cintakan agama mereka, mereka menjadikan kuil sebagai tempat rujukan. Orang Islam cintakan juga agama mereka, tetapi masjid dan surau semakin lama semakin sepi. Maka apakah kita mempertahankan Artikel 121 (1A) Perlembagaan Persekutuan atas dasar kita cintakan agama Islam, sedangkan kecintaan kita kepada agama kita tidak seperti kecintaan penganut Hindu terhadap agama mereka. Kecintaan kita kepada sesama Islam tidak sama seperti kecintaan penganut Hindu sesama mereka. Apatah lagi kecintaan kita kepada mereka yang baru memeluk agama Islam.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Who Controls Your Control Beliefs

It is often said that free-thinkers are anything but free to think.
This is quite unfair. Ib fact, all of us are not as free as we think we are, even if we think we are free thinkers.
This is because before information can be interpreted to become meaningful thought, it would have undergone a process of being filtered by our control beliefs.


We do not think in a vacuum.
Even freethinkers are not as free as they think they are when they are thinking, or when they think they are thinking.
This is because thinking is an active exercise of the will. More importantly, all thinking begins with prior beliefs. We call these foundational assumptions control beliefs.


The quest for human knowledge is shaped by decisions about what is worth investigating and what presuppositions to hold in order to direct the available economic and intellectual resources for the maximum payoff.

In the preface to his Reason Within the Bounds of Religion, Nicholas Wolterstorff identified two issues that all scholars face:
(i) which matters to investigate and
(ii) which views to hold.

He develops a research program by which theory building is based on the three parameters of
(i) data,
(ii) theory and
(iii) control beliefs.

Control beliefs (CB) may take the form of methodological, philosophical or ontological convictions. It is used to weigh theories and doctrines in science and theology. If a theory or doctrine does not fit the CB, it has to be either revised or discarded. The test is ultimately probabilistic, i.e., whatever seems to be more likely than not the case. Most of the conflicts between science and theology occur at the level of control beliefs.
Our structures of beliefs form the filter by which we determine what data can be trusted as knowledge. We all build up a set of control beliefs (CB) that anchor all other derivative beliefs (DB). In time, such beliefs become entrenched in our confessions, our public expression of our private beliefs. One may confess that God exists. Such a confession may arise from a conviction that this is so even if it cannot be proven. When challenged, we may make a commitment to buttress our convictions by making more public confessions.


Christian belief is no different from all other kinds of belief. It possesses control beliefs by which to evaluate other sources of data. Information that becomes adopted as authoritative acquires the status of knowledge. Although knowledge may be tested and challenged, sometimes even losing its status if contrary information undermines it, control beliefs are rarely toppled.
In Christian belief, the stakes are as high as they can possibly get. It extends beyond the most precious possession we all have, biological existence. For the Christian, belief in and about God concerns everlasting life. Such belief shapes our knowledge of reality and should be evident in our decisions and behavior. Unlike mere intellectual assent, the issues are live and the outcome must be consistent with the commitments.


3.1 Can people of faith change their beliefs?
What is fidelity to divine revelation? It is fashionable to believe that faithfulness, say; to the teachings of the Bible means our understanding of what it teaches does not change with time. If this was so, today’s Christians would not need to buy new books offering fresh insights, scholars and researchers need not spend time clarifying difficult passages and preachers and missionaries need not work at studying the Bible. It would also mean that all the changes throughout church history are acts of infidelity. The Reformers would be accused of faithlessness.

Such a static view of human understanding also presumes that
(i) Knowledge of God through the Scriptures and the saints are perfect for all time
(ii) Our ancestors had intelligence that cannot or need not be surpassed
(iii) Their interpretations are perfect and need no correction, and
(iv) Correction of human interpretations of our knowledge of God is undesirable
In practice, the church does not act like this. We conduct all sorts of programs to better educate ourselves and increase our powers of understanding just as the Lord encouraged us to. Understanding is a progressive and cumulative act. God is not angry at imperfect understanding but for willful misunderstanding leading to disobedience. Our faith should be steadfast with regard to God, not to our understanding about God.
The most dangerous type of religious believers are those who stop thinking, or renewing their minds. Indeed, most heresies or wrong beliefs arise from a stubborn resistance to fresh understanding of the old data. Knowledge depends not only on data but also on the interpretation of it. Many biblical characters and leaders of the church change their understanding on learning curves. Prophets had to unlearn what they thought were correct views about God. Most regarded themselves as faithful to God when in fact they were faithful to their understanding of God. Thus Abram changed his view of God many times when he was corrected from his ways; David certainly had his share of missing God’s point and Solomon continued in his father’s missteps; Peter had to be stopped from undermining God’s salvation plan; Paul thought he was doing God a favor by persecuting Christians; and the Corinthian church believed they were exercising freedom in Christ by endorsing ‘free-love’.
It is the height of arrogance to suppose that we in this generation have no inherent mistakes regarding our understanding of God. The history intellectual progress is nothing more than discoveries of errors to be corrected until the correction itself becomes corrected. This does not mean that what we think we know about God is wrong. But it does mean that, like children, our powers of achieving understanding about God increases with learning and correction. Our approximations of knowledge get better with each passing generation, as it should. While we should not be unnecessarily ashamed of past errors, we should also not be arrogant about recent gains in understanding.

3.2. The role of extra-biblical knowledge
Christian belief and faith welcomes extra-biblical resources to complete our understanding of reality (e.g. The Pilot Syndrome: On a plane, even a priest prefers a qualified pilot to one who shares his theological views. We need more than knowledge from the Bible to survive.) The Bible is not a comprehensive guidebook for everything we need for living. It is a special message from God with frameworks by which to build a worldview to assess how we are doing. While the Bible is a special inheritance from believers who came before us, it is a relatively recent resource. Most of the people who worshipped God had no access to the Bible. Less than two thousand years ago, no one in the world had the New Testament. Before the public ministry of Jesus, no one had his teachings to go by. Before Moses was called into service, there would have been no mosaic teachings and laws from God. The faithful at the time of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob and Joseph, did not have the Old Testament. St. Augustine wrote De Doctrina Christiana that Christians ought to seek legitimate uses of extra-biblical sources because all knowledge ultimately comes from God. This is not to diminish the value of the Bible, but to draw attention to the fact that unlike the Muslims, we are not really “People of the Book”. We are “People of the God who gave us the Book”.

(Renewing our minds)

Can control beliefs change? Yes. Romans 12: 1-2 speaks of the renewal of our minds. Paul refers to the shaping of our control beliefs so that it is subservient to God’s will. In this passage, Paul does not say we are to conform to God’s will because God is more powerful. Rather, when we reflect deeply and honestly by renewing our minds back to the state when we first gave our hearts (minds) to God, we can test and discern the perfect will of God.
Christians have the privilege of having the help of the Holy Spirit as our personal trainer. The Spirit’s primary function with regard to Christians stated in John 16: 13, is to sustain the fidelity of our (control) beliefs by guiding us into all truth and declare to us “the things that are to come”. In John 16: 8, Jesus taught that the Helper (Advocate) will come to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. It is this convicting power of the Holy Spirit which will safeguard Christian control beliefs if we let it. It is with this divine promise that we dare to confront the excesses of postmodern uncertainty. Yet the paradox of free will given to us means we can undermine our own advantage by refusing to submit to the Spirit. It is only by voluntarily and intentionally permitting the Holy Spirit to control our control beliefs can we begin our quest for a Christian mind.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Decision Making and The Will Of God

Decision Making and The Will Of God

As Christians we know we are supposed to live under the Lordship of Christ.
But how do we know His will in specific decisions?

Whom should I marry?
What job should I take?
Is it time to move to another job?
Should I go into full time church related ministry?

How do we discern God's will?
Does He lead minute by minute through the Holy Spirit?
Or do we just use common sense based on Scripture?
How about prophets?

This public lecture will attempt to lay down some basic biblical principles of discerning God's will.

Date: 12 February 2006 (Sunday)
Time: 1.45 pm
Venue: City Discpleship Presbyterian Church

Presenter: "Jedi Master" Tan Soo Inn

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Agora's Photo Album on flickr

Agora's Photo Album on flickr

We are going to start collecting pictures of our events and happenings. If you want to contribute, email Leon ( and I will give you the flickr account details to upload.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Christian & The Arts

Here's an early announcement for an upcoming Agora event... Please let us know in advance that you are coming so that we can prepare notes, ok? Email me at

Date: 12 March 06 (Sunday)
Time: 1.45 pm
Venue: City Discipleship Presbyterian Church (Map available)
Presenter: Colin Kirton (Footstool Players)

Colin trained and performed in professional theatre at Rosebud School of the Arts and Rosebud Theatre in Canada. He now regularly teaches on issues pertaining to the arts and faith, directs creative projects and conducts practical theatre skills workshops towards equipping and encouraging the Malaysian church in using the creative arts as a medium for worship, teaching and evangelism. Colin also freelances in the local arts and entertainment scene as an actor, director, trainer, musician, singer, host/emcee and voiceover talent. He worships in Subang Jaya Gospel Centre.

A theology for artistry (Why the need for artistry? Is it important to God?)

- The function of the artist (The various roles an artist can play)
- A Christian worldview for artistic expression (What kind of artistic expression is acceptable/valid in God's eyes? Does our artistic expression always have to be about our faith for God to accept it?)
- The Bible and the arts (A survey of the whole Bible as a case-study to see God's perspective on artistic expression and to draw principles for our own artistic expression)

This workshop is targeted at older teens and adults.

Free: John Frame's The Doctrine of the Christian Life:

John Frame : Doctrine of the Christian Life:

Great news, this ethics textbook by John Frame (which is the third volume in his Theology of Lordship series) has been published for downloading (it's legal, don't worry) online for free! Get it, before someone changes their mind!

Catalog your books online

Catalog your books online;

This is an interesting tool that can make our Agora dream of sharing our resources a reality.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Why did I join the vigil (leh)?

Why did I join the vigil (leh)? (Read KJ John on the same title)

I have received quite a number of comments; patriotic (being the most flattering so far), [pathetic] joker, lawyer-wannabe, flaunting legal-knowledge, troublemaker, excitement seeker, human right (or rather "human left") activist and even plain "kepo" (busy body). I guess it was all of those, but definitely much more. None of them actually came close to the main and primary motivation of why I am at the vigil.

I am convinced that God said this to every single Christian:

Hear the word of YAHWEH...
Give ear to the teaching of our God...
What to me is your many sacrifices? says YAHWEH
I have had enough your tithings, your money, your properties!
I do not delight in the blood of bulls, of lambs, of goats!

When you come to appear before me,
who gave you the rights to trample my courts?
Bring no more vain offerings;
Your empty praises are an abomination to me...
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
When you lift up your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from my eyes;
cease to do evil
learn to do good
seek justice
correct oppression
bring justice to the fatherless
plead the widow's cause
(Isa 1:10-17 - paraphrase)
O Man, what is good,
and what does YAHWEH require of you
but to do justice
to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8 - ESV)

I believe that it is no less a Christian duty to stand in the gap of unrighteous laws. In my disobedience to such laws, which I see as evil and ungodly, I am proclaiming my allegiance to the God whom the prophets called Just and Righteous, Judge and Law-giver, King. To cooperate with an evil system was to deny God and God's higher law (Martin Luther King Jr.) and the only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing (Edmund Burke). I do not and indeed from Scripture, I dare not think that I am a good man. Yet, I am a citizen of Christ's country by virtue of his grace. He only is good. And this good King, who is the King of Kings, has commissioned all his citizens to be the heralds and ambassadors of his righteous rule.

And Christ's is not a rule in the private region of life but in EVERY sphere, there is no spot, even a thumb-breath that He did not claim, "'tis mine" (Kuyper). If Christ came to destroy the work of evil, then whether in religious, or moral or social or political or economic or legal sphere, we must proclaim the victory of Christ our King. Some of my Christian fellows taught me that we ought to claim this and that territory for Jesus, "amen" I say. But let us not think that Christianity and Christ's victory is some unseen mumbo-jumbo in the sky. There will be real consequences affecting real lives. As we mark territories for King Jesus, let us do it on bended knees in trembling prayers, and let us do it on our feet in full assurance that Jesus indeed has won the battle against evil. Let us DO IT because Christ has done it.

Not too long ago, I quoted Tom Wright in my essay Mission for the Glory of God: A Reflection, he said:

"If you were to shape your world in following Christ, it isn't enough to say that being a Christian and being a professional or an academic is simply about high moral standard, though it is, or using every opportunity to talk to your student about Jesus, though it is, or praying with or for them, being fair in your grading and honest in your speaking, that is all non-negotiable, but you were called to do something much, much more, you were called prayerfully to discern where in your discipline the human project is showing signs of exiles and humbly and boldly to act symbolically in ways which declares that the Powers have been defeated. The Powers don't like that by the way, do this only with prayers. That the kingdom has come in Jesus the Jewish Messiah, that the new way of being human has been unveiled. And be prepared to tell the story which explains what the symbols are all bout. In all this you were to declare that Jesus is lord, and Caesar is not as the New Testament did; that Jesus is lord that Marx and Freud and Nietzsche aren't; that Jesus is lord and neither modernity nor post-modernity are. When Paul spoke of the gospel, the euangelion, he wasn't simply talking bout a system of salvation but about the powerful announcement in symbols and words that Jesus is the true lord of the world, the true light of the world…."

If Jesus is lord, then Article 121 (1A)*** is not! If Jesus is lord, then unrighteous laws and screwed up Constitution are not. And when these false lords forced themselves on me, I must stand (literally stand) and reject them thoroughly. This is the logical reasoning from my conviction of my citizenship under King Jesus.Yet I can only do it by the grace of my King; because he is the stronger, no, the STRONGEST King, and because he is the final victor, it only makes sense to obey him rather than those seemly strong false overlords.

This is not Moorthy's cause, this is a Malaysian cause, the people's cause. And these are the people for whom Christ came to destroy the work of evil. gloria dei vivens homo - the glory of God is in the living person (St. Irenaeus). The God who creates did not create my career or my car (at least not literally), but he created my neighbour and I. The God who suffers did not suffer for my career or my car, but he suffered for my neighbours and I. To all humanity, we shine because we were made in God's image. To all the elects, we shine doubly because we were made in God's image and washed in God's blood. I do not know who are the elects, but I don't care, it is not my business to know. Everyone reflects the glorious God, as the Fathers declared. And it is a Christian duty to restore the dignity of man. It's my business to respond when a fellow Malaysian, someone so near to me suffers injustice because God created him and Christ died for him (I sincerely pray). I believe I will forfeit my rights to tell him about this true King, King Jesus if I do not love him enough to be bothered with his sufferings. Christian mission must include the restoration of human dignity, whether in elevation of proverty or elimination of unjust laws. (Yes, evangelism is non-negotiable). For now, in this case, elimination of unjust laws is part of our mission as the Church, or the Colony of God's people in Malaysia.

Wednesday, 8pm, Corridor of Change, High Court, Jalan Raja, the Vigil goes on.

The Press are coming this time, but this is besides the point. If the Church who serves the God of Righteousness and Justice does not live out the promotion of such virtues, WHO WILL?

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, i.e., to be concerned with the cause of the suffering ppl
and to keep oneself unstained from the world, i.e., to be unconquered by the evils of the world.
(James 1:27, ESV)

***Read my reflection on Article 121(1A) for the context on why I think the current interpretation is unjust and does not reflect the spirit of the Constitution ( And some links to other xtians who blogged on the vigil)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Aesthetic Apologetics

I think Peter Leithart deserves to be better-known. He contributed one of my favourite essays in Leland Ryken's The Christian Imagination and has a great article, For Useless Learning, over at First Things (I think), which is a breath of fresh air for poor humanities students like me. Here he is, on a topic that is of interest to many here in The Agora:
Christian apologetics tends to focus on ethical or rational arguments. Questions such as "Can we be good without God?" and "Does that being exist than which nothing greater can be conceived?" and "What are the transcendental conditions of knowledge?" have dominated the field. A good historical argument can be made, however, that a complete Christian apologetic must assemble all three of the "transcendentals," not only the true and good, but the beautiful. Judgments concerning beauty are proverbially subjective, and perhaps this is one reason why Christians have not been attracted to an aesthetic apologetic. But the appeal would not be to point to this or that beautiful thing; rather, it would point from the existence of beautiful things to the intuition that there is a Beauty beyond beauty.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006



Does Christianity teach that God created the beginning or that God created in the beginning? Genesis 1 begins with “In the beginning....” If we assume that this is the beginning of creation, then God created the beginning and not within the duration of a beginning. But what sort of beginning does this mean? It cannot mean the beginning of God, since God is beginningless, changeless (God does not get better with time) , and timeless. It must mean that God created the beginning of time.

Although it is possible that God takes time to create, God did not initially create in time because time was not yet created for it to have duration. However, once God created time itself, then from our perspective, it is possible to say that God created over some duration of time.

In the Scriptures, the Old Testament begins with the words, “In the beginning God created...” and in the New Testament, the Gospel according to John begins with “In the beginning was the Word (prior even to the beginning of creation), and the Word was with God and the Word was God”. How do we understand these two passages?

• Genesis 1:1 - God created the beginning in the beginning of time and space, i.e., God created.
• John 1:1 - the Word was divine and was with God from the beginning of beginnings.

Assuming the classical orthodox view that Jesus is equally divine with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, it must mean that the Word was not posterior to the Father even if he was begotten.

To solve the confusion of terms, I propose adopting a heuristic device to describe what I call

• Kairic time - the inexplicable, atemporality God ‘experiences’ or divine, uncreated time, and
• Chronic time - the temporal measure of ontological change or created time.

Under this rubric, God in kairic time, created chronic time from which space emerged to receive the ontological extension of creation that includes nature.

4.4.1 Synchronic and Diachronic Time
Chronic time, the type of time that we in creation experience, may be understood as either synchronic or diachronic. Synchronic means ‘same time’ so that two events happening at the same time are synchronous. However, synchronic time refers to an instant of time, say, 10.30 AM, December 25th, 2005 when an event happens. And diachronic time refers to an interval of time, sometimes called a duration, say from 10.30AM to 5.00PM during which an event takes place. When we ask, what time is it, we ask for synchronic time, the instant of time and when we ask how much time will it take, we refer to diachronic time, an interval of time, between two instants.

This becomes important when we speak of whether the origin of the universe as described by the BBM speaks of instant or of duration and whether it is possible to have an interval of time at a singularity when time seems to be at an instant. In fact, we might well ask, at the quantum foam, is there a distinction between instants and intervals of time if there is nothing to measure them by?

4.4.2 Synchronic and Diachronic Truths
The two types of chronic time give rise to their respective truths. The synchronic truth is that I am 45 years old today. Although I will still be 45 tomorrow, it is a different synchronic truth and not the same synchronic truth about my age today. It is a diachronic truth that “I am 45” from my last birthday until my next birthday. This will no longer be true at my next birthday. These two kinds of truth statements can be radically different as you can see and yet both are truth statements in the timeframe they refer to. Some statements are diachronically true with no finite duration, i.e., they are true eternally, as in, God exists. Your ability to determine whether any truth statement is synchronic or diachronic is helpful in deciding whether to believe it.

In any dialogue between science and theology, it is important to identify and affirm biblical statements as either synchronic or diachronic truth claims. The biblical teaching that Jesus will come again very soon, or that “Today, you shall be with me in Paradise”, or when Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am”, or “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” In each case, our interpretation of what the statement means as a truth claim depends on what type of truth claim we assign the statement. We use this distinction all the time in everyday use. Thus when a mother tells her son, “I will buy you an iPod Nano,” whether she made a truth statement if she has not done so by the end of the day depends on whether her son understood that to be a synchronic or diachronic statement. She can always say, “But I did not say when I will buy you an iPod Nano.” Until the duration is exhausted, time has not run out yet for her to buy the iPod. One can only hope that her diachronic duration is not one of eternity.

In the previous two sections, we establish that Christianity teaches that God created time and in time, created stuff of which this universe is a part. The kinds of stuff that we find in this universe we call nature. This excludes non-natural stuff such as angels and spirits, which we have to assume exist in a realm of their own but apparently are able to invade our natural universe. One way to explain how God who transcends time is able to interact with us who are bound in time is to conceive of kairic time which we assign to a fiction we call divine time. This is merely to distinguish it from the temporality we mean when we speak of time. This natural experience of change we call chronic time.

The next question we ask if what sort of creation did God will. Did God create from existing stuff as the ancient Greeks believed or did God create out of nothing? If God created from nothing, does God continue to create? The answer was precisely what led Charles Darwin to turn away from the authority of the Bible. The Church in his time made their interpretation that divine creation had ceased so that no new species can come about, a litmus test of doctrinal orthodoxy. When biological evidence to the contrary presented itself, Darwin concluded that the Bible had to be in error.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Christian Books

Happened to stumble across this link chronicling good Christianity-related books to read.

Comments pls.