Thursday, November 30, 2006
Larry tells us;
"The rococo tabernacle of intellectual chic, Theory enjoyed vogue in universities worldwide, but now finds itself closely interrogated. So great has postmodernism's own crisis become that at the start of semester in a compulsory Theory-based writing unit at one Sydney university, students had their tutor commiserate for the pain they would have to endure, and hand around chocolates ... In some ways comparable to John Howard's like-minded scientists who have for the past decade reassured us that all is well and that the earth does indeed remain flat.
Chocolate-coated or not, Theory leaves a bitter aftertaste. Following a recent newspaper publication of my critique of it, the emails I received, overwhelmingly in favour, came mostly from graduates lamenting their precious educational time wasted on Theory as undergraduates. Despite ructions murmured within, the academy kept mum, but the Empire might well still write back, at a time of its own choosing."
Read the full transcript here or download the MP3 Audio narrated by the Author here.
Larry Buttrose is doing a PhD on creative writing at the Southern Cross University in Lismore. And his latest book is called 'Powerful and influential - people who have changed the way we think.'
Monday, November 27, 2006
OUR prime minister, in closing the Umno General Assembly last week, said that leaders of a race who respect and honour the Federal Constitution must also be responsible enough to defend the rights of the non-Malays. He reminded his members that Barisan Nasional, the country’s coalition government, should make decisions based on what is best for the country and its people. Indeed, one accedes to our country’s premier a merit of consistency in calling for tolerance and respect for all ethnic groups alike.
Recent statements by his fellow party members have therefore been more than a little confusing to the public at large, leaving the following examples ringing in our ears.
Bangsa Malaysia, a fundamental concept in espousing national unity in our multi-ethnic country, has been rejected in favour of limiting the definition of Malaysians to Malays being the main, or pivotal, race in the country. Leaders of Barisan Nasional component parties have been chided for expressing their fears that the communities they represent are being sidelined. Strong and offensively racial statements have been reportedly made in the duration of the past week. An Umno leader was asked when he would use the keris (the traditional Malay dagger) some time after brandishing it at the general assembly.
Now, such assertions are reflective of either a serious contradiction in terms upon which our national leaders seem to operate, or a gross misunderstanding of the prime minister’s rhetoric of justice and respect for all.
In either case, the public is greatly puzzled as a result. It is becoming increasingly difficult to correspond Pak Lah’s noble calls for tolerance and harmony with those that are in blatant disregard of the most basic respect for humanity, perhaps even falling short of being classified as seditious.
Indeed and rightfully so, the Umno Youth Chief has cautioned that stern action be taken against those who play the racial card for political interests. To the keen observer, however, it does strangely seem as if many may already be culpable of this very warning.
A cost to national interest
This unfortunate inconsistency brings about several consequences. Firstly, it brings the level of national discourse several steps down the intellectual ladder. Quality debates founded upon informed facts, and not biased opinion, should be the order of the day. A great deal more time and energy should be spent on discussion which encourages new long-term strategies feasible for the country. Instead, recent babble demonstrates that Malaysians are contentedly myopic in its obsession with race and religion.
Secondly, it shows the lack of commitment to seriously tackling issues of national development. In such an age of globalization, economic competitiveness and ideas to improve trade and investment ought to be high up in the list of discussion content. Our neighbouring countries continue to improve by leaps and bounds in foreign direct investment, whilst Malaysia slides sluggishly to 62nd place, according to the 2005 UNCTAD FDI rankings.
The quality of tertiary education, both in teaching methods and content, needs to be brought to an international level. That none of these was the key focus of the recent Umno assembly, the country’s largest political party, is especially worrying.
Finally, if this perceived discrepancy continues, it inevitably comes at a cost to national unity – ironically enough, the primary goal that Vision 2020 sets out to achieve. The fear is that such sentiment of racial undertones, intentionally or not, would then seep to the masses. Nobody wishes for such a situation to come to pass.
Platforms of understanding
There are, however, solutions that can be sought. Basic ground rules should be set up and strictly adhered to. Statements that hint at compromising national unity in any way should be reprimanded. This should apply to all leaders in all public discussion, including parliamentary debates. Condemnatory insults of any race or religion should not be tolerated under any circumstance. In short, there should be conscious effort to move away from clamour and steadily towards rational dialogue.
Forming such common platforms of understanding is the first step forward. It should be collectively agreed that a basic level of respect for humanity, in line with Islam, is to be maintained, both in speech and in action. This agreement should not come as a result of coercion, but of willing and intentional decision by all parties. While it is true that many national policy issues will not be as quickly or easily resolved, at least one should stand tall as the benchmark against which all others are evaluated: national unity.
There is an urgent need to demonstrate that the political leadership is ready and willing to be consistent in its various policies and public statements. Failure to do so leaves the public in the dark as to which is the most accurate or sincere in nature. National interest must be seriously considered, a wake-up call that insular thinking will bring us nowhere.
If the government is serious about its philosophy of respecting and defending the rights of all races in Malaysia, then let’s have less talk about theoretical notions and more action.
I quote from Pak Lah, that “one of the nine thrusts of Vision 2020 is to create a mature democratic society. We have stated our desire to work towards establishing a mature, liberal and tolerant society. If we are serious about this goal, we must pursue the process of transformation with diligence.” I concur.
Read on for a good example of being a witness in the marketplace
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Soo Inn has promised to conduct a course on preaching for friends in Bandar Utama Chapel and for Agora. He suggested to do the theory component in one intensive Saturday seminar.
Date: Jan 20 2007
Time:10am - 4pm
Venue: Bandar Utama Chapel (Antioch)
Interested ones can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com "This will be a big help. I am looking forward to this seminar because I truly believe preaching God's word is not just for a few
pulpit superstars (and we know what can happen to them) but for all of God's people. I want to empower as many as possible. Thanks for your partnership. Soo Inn"
The Objective of the Study is "to review existing and mainstream worldview
assumptions and to reform our own thinking to evolve a biblical and Christian worldview which will guide us to think and act accordingly."
The Guidelines for the book study are:
1. It is a one year commitment, and the participant is responsible to get your own copy of the book. (contact Hedonese or Canaanland) Prior reading of the Chapter to be discussed is required and there must be a willingness to speak and participate at small group levels. Those who have not read the chapter cannot participate in the discussion. We cannot miss more than one session consecutively to remain in the study. Punctuality is critical, and all are advised to arrive 15 minutes before start time to fellowship.
2. We agree to "wait upon the Lord and pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit" in how the Lord wants to "use us in the public affairs of life" as a direct result and encouragement from the study. As the Lord leads, we will follow through these "actions" as a commitment to the Study Group.
3. Study Group members agree to become part and parcel of the Action Movement portion of the National Congress on Integrity (NCOI) currently jointly organized by OHMSI and GCF.
4. Format for each session:
-10 minute overview by a Speaker and some questions/issues to consider
-60 minutes discussion of the chapter in small groups; and to raise issues which cannot be resolved
-45 minutes of plenary discussion to resolve any unresolved issues from the discussion and wrap up
5. We will all endeavor to start our own similar study group elsewhere upon completion of this study. Also, at about the final sessions (Oct/Nov 07
or Dec/Jan 08), the meet days may be collapsed into a retreat away from KL and
over the weekend to finish well and to focus on any really BIG ISSUES THAT
REMAIN UNRESOLVED. We could even invite other Elders to join us for differing views.
6. Start date is 27th January 2007 and every last Saturday of the month after that for the rest of the year, except if festival holidays coincide.
Start time is 10.00am to finish by 12.00noon. Place is fixed at CDPC
(See Map available at http://cdpc.org.my). All are encouraged to arrive by 9.45am to fellowship before start time. A "willing and able hunger lunch fellowship" will follow for those interested and can spare the time.
7. Please pray that all those interested and ordained by God will be able,
available and make the commitment to come. God Bless.
Yours because His,
PLEASE FORWARD TO ANY OTHERS WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
The last 50 years of the worlds economy has been a struggle between the forces of the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman. Keynes comes from the more European styled more government intervention liberal perspective and Friedman form the American styled conservative deregulated free markets. These two forces worked well correcting each other, so much so that I have heard a prominent economics professor say that the Capitalism practiced today in
My conclusion, learning from the great economist and lectures of our time is that the markets must be free enough to be a messenger to us – and then the government steps in after that to repair and restores the causalities left behind by the market, only when there are no other options left.
I guess I would side more with the Friedman school of thought, not because I would like to see Laissez-faire economics oppress people again, but as Friedman said in his famous essay, “Is Capitalism Humane?”;
“Capitalism per se is not humane or inhumane; socialism is not humane or inhumane. But capitalism tends to give much freer rein to the more humane values of human beings. It tends to develop an atmosphere which is more favorable to the development on the one hand of a higher moral climate of responsibility and on the other greater achievements in every realm of human activity.”
Freer markets tend to develop the economy better, and a developed economy can produce more resources to help others. Now granted that the money may be hoarded by the elite, this is why the governance and policies of a nation are also so crucial, and in my Christian interest, I want to see the poor and marginalized helped with both their dignity in their self effort intact and when they cant put in any effort – then I want to see them helped without killing the goose that lays our golden eggs.
I post this mainly as a tribute to Milton Friedman, who passed away last Thursday, 16 November 2006. A great economist in the tradition of Adam Smith, he was known as the great champion of economic freedom in the 20th Century.
The short summary of Friedman’s life and work can be found on AdamSmith.org;
Friedman is best known for his monetarist policies – insisting that inflation is highly destructive and that only monetary policy can control it – but that monetary policy is a heavyweight instrument and cannot be used for short-term economic management. But he is also distinguished for pioneering work on other subjects such as the unintended effects of professional licensing and prise regulation, tax policy, and the theory of the consumption function.
To find out more, get his book Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition
or to learn about Friedman and some other important economist in history check out this resource:
Legacies of Great Economists (Course No. 528)
(10 lectures in MP3, 45 minutes/lecture for USD 15.95)
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Press Statement Nov 16, 2006
Malaysian Evangelical Christians Hails
Umno President Presidential Address
NECF Malaysia lauds Umno President Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for his firm and assuring statements made while delivering his presidential address at the opening of the 57th Umno General Assembly on Nov. 14.
His statements reflected his sincerity and commitment to his responsibility as the Prime Minister of all Malaysians.
NECF particularly notes and welcomes his specific commitment to:
Firmly act against any group, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, who incites the public with "bogus allegations and fictitious threats";
Reject any demonstration of the "new intolerance";
Strengthen national unity, to promote cooperation and dialogue;
Uphold meritocracy and to promote excellence as the way forward for Malaysia, and "no race should be left behind in terms of educational attainment";
Eradicate poverty regardless of racial background;
Enforce the rule of law in battling against corruption in particular;
Advocate good governance: political leadership should provide "best possible example by displaying honesty, diligence, dedication and commitment"; and
Affirm freedom of expression in rational manner: "a nation should provide channels that enable its people to voice their concerns."
Although his speech was read in his position as the Umno president, NECF deems his message beneficial to all Malaysians as it aims at raising a generation of united and progressive Malaysians who are able to tackle the challenges of a globalising world.
However, NECF regrets the statements made by several Umno leaders, which appear to go against Datuk Seri commitment towards national integration and unity.
Their statements further demonstrate an unhealthy superior attitude by blaming on and unnecessarily issuing warning statements against the people of other races.
NECF notes with deep disappointment their statements that the rights of Malays were being threatened by the other races. Such statements made so publicly are likely to breed resentment in the hearts of our Malay brethren, and is definitely injurious to peaceful race relations in the country.
NECF is also disappointed by some Umno leaders for rejecting the setting up of an Interfaith Commission and discouraging discussion on constitutional provisions.
Prepared and released by NECF Malaysia Secretary-General Rev. Wong Kim Kong, J.M.N. For assistance, please contact Rev. Wong at 016-229 2017.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
The Puritan view of vocation not only legitimized all manner of work as service to God but also had practical implications in the way work was conducted. One such implication was exemplified in the Puritan’s motivation for his life’s work. Imagine a young man seeking to make choices regarding his career choice. What might he receive as career counseling advice from his Puritan elders?
Here’s a possible sampling of their sage advice which I’ve “distilled” into a few key takeaways –
Key advice: Have a high view of why you work
“Some man will say perchance: …must we not labor in our callings to maintain our families? I answer: this must be done but this is not the scope and the end of our lives. The true end of our lives is to do service to God in serving of man”
Key advice: Don’t be motivated by fame or fortune but rather by a desire to serve.
“Choose that employment or calling in which you may be most serviceable to God. Choose not that in which you may be most rich or honorable in the world; but that in which you may do most good...”
Key advice: Carefully assess your gifts when choosing your life’s work - they are a possible indicator of God's leading
“Another thing to make the calling warrantable is when God gives a man gifts for it…When God hath called me to a place, he has given me some gifts fit for that place, especially if the place be suitable and fitted to me and my best gifts…”
Key advice: Be on your guard against selfish, worldly ambition as you pursue your life’s work.
“Take heed lest, under the pretense of diligence in your calling, you be drawn to earthly-mindedness, and excessive cares or covetous designs for rising in the world”
None of this is the kind of advice we're accustomed to hearing or the kind of thinking we carry to work daily. We're not often exhorted to pursue work for the purposes of service nor are we advised to be cautious of selfish ambition. Instead we are often ambitious without caution and pursue work for wealth-building rather than service. This unusual thinking is at the heart of the Puritan work ethic. I suspect it sounds strangely out of place in the corporate world today not because it's antiquated but because it's counter-culture.
For more reading on integrating faith and work:
Puritan Lessons on Faith and Work - Part 1
Ambition and the Christian
Here is a short tribute to some of my heroes of the faith who laboured to synthesize their convictions that the truth of biology and zoology and the truth of the bible must meet at the top. Men like Asa Gray;
The leading American botanist of the nineteenth century, Asa Gray helped organize the main generalizations of the science of plant geography. The manual of botany that carries his name is still in use today. Friend and confidant of Charles Darwin, Gray became the most persistent and effective American protagonist of Darwin's views. Yet at the same time, he believed that religion and Darwin's theory of natural selection could coexist.
See the list.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Health and wealth are two major concerns of many people. Therefore anyone who offers a guaranteed package of health and wealth will attract many people.
Three of the four megachurches in the United States belong to the Word-Faith movement. These churches are Osteen’s Lakewood in Houston, Creflo’s Dollar World Changers near Atlanta and T.D.Jakes’ Potter House in south Dallas.
The Word-Faith movement is also called the Positive Confession movement because of the importance it placed on the spoken Word of God and God Faith. It is also described as the “Name It and Claim It” movement, Health and Wealth theology or just Prosperity Gospel.
This article will examine the theology of the Word-Faith movement from the perspective of Reformed Theology
read more at www.kairos2.com/word-faith.htm
Cause here you have to compete with a bunch of the brightest graduates around, going through a long series of workshops and get risk 'elimination' after each round.
The first assignment was to write an essay on "Which leader inspired you the most? Why?" My friend thought she would write something true to herself. So naturally, she wrote about Jesus and passed it up.
But when the Director asked the group of young guns, "Who's the inspirational leader you wrote about?" answers came up like "Clinton!", "Gandhi", "Mother Theresa", "Bill Gates" and so on.
At that point, my friend was quite embarassed. Imagine how politically incorrect in that corporate setting to say, "Jesus!" She remained silent.
But just then, the Director produced a selected essay and read it out:
"This is the best essay I've seen. It's original and I want you all to be like this".
Guess what? It's her essay about Jesus. And she felt the Lord is teaching a lesson here, "You don't need to be embarassed of me. Stand tall for Me in the marketplace".
Wanna know what she wrote? Here is the essay:
QUALITIES OF A LEADER
A leader whom I admire greatly once told me, that to be a great leader, one must be the servant of all. As paradoxical as it sounds, it holds great depth of meaning in addressing the qualities of a leader.
I believe for a leader to be a servant of all he must first possess humility, a heart that is teachable. He must be willing to learn not only from the mighty and the strong but also from the weak, plain and simple. A humble leader is also one who is willing to serve and to work side-by-side with his followers, seeing them as his equals.
Integrity is also another essence of a leader. There must be a consistency between what he preaches and what he practises – ‘walking the talk’ in his lifestyle and leading by it. Integrity in a leader also means a steadfast grip to values and beliefs in all circumstances and to remain wholesome through it.
Finally, I believe a leader should not only have dreams and visions but to be able to inspire others to achieve them. He must be able to bring out the strengths of each follower and also be ready to accept their weaknesses with respect, while achieving the goal. As Peter Drucker mentioned, “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers”, it is imperative then for leaders to have not only the above mentioned qualities but definitely more and beyond in order to have followers.
Friday, November 10, 2006
我经常被一些肤浅的解说困扰了我的思想; 尤其是针对同性恋这种触摸到人内心深处复杂情感的课题. 然而, 身为基督徒, 我们不应廻避神学及圣经对这课题的释义;因为,我们是本着圣经为我们安身立命的终身原则.
在现今时代,作为耶稣基督忠诚的跟从者,我们更要深入思考圣经及神学论在同性恋这课题的教导. 有所谓一群同性恋基督徒, 更是自创及推广了他们自己一套的哲理,导致同性恋这风气也越来越盛旺. 他们甚至曲解了圣经, 并且坚持圣经的教导和同性恋的立场是没有冲突的, 尤其是对于一生只有一位(同性恋)伴侣的主张, 他们认为这是符合圣经教导的.
(当今, 同性恋的风气已经侵入大马，近期更有一位知名的基督徒作家当众宣告他是一位同性恋者. 这位同性恋基督徒也向公众表明了他的展望 - 也就是在他完成他现今在美国的社会与神学博士学位后，将会回来大马组织及开办同性恋者的教会.)
那么, 到底圣经在同性恋这课题是有着怎样的教导及解说呢? 我认为教会在这方面, 则应该以更谦卑的心态来了解圣经所提供的资料。别忘了不久以前，就有一些教会以主观的解圣来支持种族主义和奴隶的观念。
Richard B. Hays说过：
首先，圣徒保罗在这段经文中, 是指着同性的性<行为>; 而不是指着那些有着同性恋倾向的人,被保罗责备的是男同性恋及女同性恋的性<行为>. 反观歌林多前书,圣徒保罗则是在指责那些身带一些罪恶的罪<人>。在罗马书1:26–27的经文里, 保罗是指着所有的罪人而说的 - 所有的罪人都陷入了背叛他们创造主的罪恶当中。
保罗的立场是很明确. 他说世人都犯了罪，亏欠了上帝的荣耀. 更甚者, 在这段经文中, 保罗把<同性性交行为>举例为人类堕落最典型的罪恶。
“在这里保罗把同性性交行为作为最典型的范例 - 人类的堕落已把上帝创造的定律大大的给破坏了。上帝创造男人、女人是为了让他们生养众多。当人类以自己的意思来‘更换’ 上帝所指定的角色,而进行同性性交的行为，他们已经以自己的行为,潜意识自主地代替了上帝。”
保罗在这里使用同性恋行为作为典范的例子来形容堕落的人类，是因为我们很清楚的知道, 我们人类是被上帝创造为男和女各别异性的. 使徒保罗在这段经文中描述的很清楚,同性恋不是上帝所意识及认同的.
我最喜欢的一位属灵作者 - HenriNouwen，在他后期的作品中讲述了他许多的孤单和创伤。
我们众人因罪本也不完美. 当活在这堕落的世上,是极为痛苦的。所以身为耶稣基督跟从者的我们, 有着一个盼望, 就是那即将来临完美的天地和那完全的医治。
我们应自我反省, 如果我们是真诚的想为上帝的传扬福音工作而奋斗，那么我们应该服侍所有等候上帝的灵魂, 更不可忽略同性恋者!
Saturday, November 04, 2006
A recent conversation with a friend convinced me that many christians in the marketplace are confused about what to do with personal ambition. As we spoke, I realized that he was struggling to discover how to pursue his dreams and ambitions without compromising his first love. I recognized the struggle in him because I've been there and am still there to some degree.
Ambition for the Christian is a curious thing. We are conflicted because we've heard the cautionary tales of Christians gone awry with selfish ambition. Yet, we feel the pull of a God given desire to be productive. It led me to explore the topic in a three part series on my Every Square Inch blog.
For those not inclined or don't have time to check out my posts, the key takeaways from the posts include:
- Dreams and ambitions are gifts from God that we should steward in a responsible manner. Rather than retreating from ambition, we should embrace it as God's gift to us.
- Stewarding ambition with responsibility entails being rightly motivated.
- Pursuing ambition as a Christian must involve a trust in God.
- While we explore our ambition, we must do so in faithfulness.
Otherwise, if you're interested to check it out, here are the links
Join the conversation on this topic at Every Square Inch and tell me what you think.
However, a group of prominent scholars identified with the "open theism" movement has recently rejected the classical understanding of God’s foreknowledge in favor of a more 'relational, risk-taking' model of God.
Let us explore the practical and pastoral implications of open theism on three crucial facets of prayer - namely, our requests for God to act in our lives, seeking His will for decision-making and responses in the midst of pain and suffering.
For more details, check out the series on Moving The Hand of God:
Moving The Hand Of God (Intro)
What Is Open Theism?
If God Knows The Future, Why Pray?
Could We Trust God's Guidance With Major, Long-Term Decisions?
Praying In The Dark Night Of The Soul
Moving The Hand Of God (Conclusion)
Footnotes and Bibliography
Cahaya Nusantara a young blog that seeks to translate quality Christian resources for the Bahasa-speaking community in East/West Malaysia posed a tricky question: Pentingkah Apa Yang Ku Percaya? (Way to go, guys!!)
"Dalam bidang keagamaan kita sering mementingkan keikhlasan iman kita (contohnya, adakah anda betul-betul mencintai Tuhan?) lebih daripada kebenaran iman kita (contohnya, adakah kepercayaan ini benar?). Saya merasakan ini sangat pelik.
Sebenarnya, apakah maksud kepercayaan?"
(I like the poem "Andai ada pelita di tangan, "Masakan disimpan di dalam peti?
Andai ada genggaman garam, Masakan dibuang ke dalam laut?" Reminds me of how rich and dispersed spiritual gifts are in the body of christ, if you could help and willing in this project? Join in the party)
Alex wrote on The Renovation of our souls :
"Some of us may have been Christians for so many years that we have become too comfortable in church. We may not be aware of an inner shift in the soil of our inner spiritual life away from God. Maybe we have been praying less and do not attend prayer meetings anymore. We find less and less time to read the Bible. Where once there was an urgency to share about Jesus with our non-Christian friends, there is none now. We find ourselves putting less and less into the offering bags.
It may even have been years since we regularly examine our lives to see whether we are living a life glorifying to God. We share less and less with each other about what God is doing in our lives. Our emotions are more often full of anger than of gratitude. Anger is a sign that we are not content with what we have. If that is so, we may need to do some renovation in the garden of our souls."
David Tan wrote God In The Dock on the atheistic 'backlash':
"The famous Darwinist Richard Dawkins is especially virulent in his views and it is no secret that he thinks religious adherents are bigots and nutcases, and are the cause of the world’s woes. I’ve not read his latest book ‘The God Delusion’ but it’s already a bestseller. I picked up this quote from the book that says; "Stalin was an atheist and Hitler probably wasn't, but even if he was ... the bottom line is very simple. Individual atheists may do evil things but they don't do evil things in the name of atheism."
Well, I’m tempted to say that Stalin and Hitler and their ilk may not have killed millions in the name of atheism, but they definitely did so in the name of natural selection. Why Dawkins should point the finger at religion and exonerate atheism, needs no rationale. But why not invoke what is obviously a demonstrable evidence of survival of the fittest when people kill each other (whatever the motivation)? So what’s wrong with indulging in a little gene pool cleansing?"
Sherman wrote about the Games Ministers Play:
"I was having a long chat last night with a younger brother of mine who’s in training for the full-time ministry. The basic essence of the discussion rested upon the reality that few people today understand the most fundamental functions of a minister, which are to conduct the sacraments (together with living the incarnational / sacramental life) and to preach the authentic gospel of Christ. Even senior pastors; they’re most often taken in by church growth models and programmes focused on acquisition and retention.
The model of ministry has evolved uncritically. A pastor is now gauged by how effective he is in managing a church which propels around programmes and systems. The pastor is consciously seen as coordinator, manager, and organiser; everything but the sacramental presence of Christ among his people".
Friday, November 03, 2006
Did Jesus teach his disciples to think? “Who do you say I am?” Jesus asked Simon Peter (Matt 16:15). That is a thinking question. Jesus started by asking who the others thought he was, and then he asked Simon Peter that question. In the gospel narratives, Jesus always taught the disciples to think, guided them to come to the correct conclusions and to make decisions. That is intellectual freedom.
Does our intellectual freedom allow us to explore areas of knowledge that are not considered “Christian”? How we answer this question is important. One answer will lead to a wider concept of intellectual freedom. The other answer will lead to books banning and burning.
The concept of intellectual freedom will imply that everyone will have the freedom to express unorthodox or unpopular views, and the importance of allowing to be made available these unorthodox or unpopular views. This will mean that we allow our church members to be exposed to all types of knowledge, praying that our church teaching is enough to help them discern what is acceptable and what is not. I know this statement will make many of you uneasy.
What happens if these unorthodox or unpopular views unduly influence our congregations? What if they contain some ideas that conflict with our church’s teaching? Will it corrupt the younger Christians and our youth? Surely some of these unorthodox or unpopular views should be so deeply buried that they will not see the light of day. The church leadership should appoint themselves to be censors on what their congregations should read or watch. In other words, there is no intellectual freedom as we appoint ourselves as censors for the people of God.
Now what if other people think the same way as we do and appoint themselves as the censor or the guardians of our intellectual freedom? And these people have a different worldview than us? Does the pot then call the kettle black? The Home Ministry of Malaysia (KDN) has been banning books for years. Recently 109 books from one distributor were banned. see list. Why then do we get upset when the government restrict intellectual freedom while we applaud when we Christians restrict intellectual freedom on our own members?
I believe we should follow the example of our Lord. Jesus allowed his disciples the intellectual freedom to learn and make the correct choices. Someone once said, “All truth is God’s truth.” Moses was schooled as a prince by the Egyptians. Daniel was trained by the Babylonian court. Jeremiah sent a message to the exiles and told them to settle down and learn from their neighbours, the Babylonians. As a result of this openness, the learning and wisdom of the Jewish community in Babylon at that time was regarded as their golden age of learning. We need to trust in the sovereignty of the Lord and of the work of the Holy Spirit. As Gamaliel II said of the new Way movement, if it is of God, it will endure. If not, it will fade away.
Christianity should allow its adherents intellectual freedom to explore. Of course there is no such thing as absolute intellectual freedom. Even in the United States, the Supreme Court acknowledges that there are certain exceptions to the First Amendment (freedom of speech). These are obscenity, child pornography, slander and defamation, state secrets, and ‘inflammatory speeches’ that will cause riots. Aside from that there are the freedom to think and express one’s views.
Now why would the Home Ministry (KND) ban Read –Aloud Children’s classics, “Vogue”-Make-up, A History of God (Karen Armstrong), SpongeBob Square Pants, Dora, The Malayan Trilogy (Antony Burgess) and People Watching: Desmond Morris’ Guide to Body Language? How will these books corrupt Malaysian society? It need a lot of thinking to make sense of this.
And there are much more for Christians to think about nowadays: open theism, emergent churches, ancient evangelical future, emigration, to name but a few such thoughts.
Soli Deo Gloria
“If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”— John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition: for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. ”— Thomas Paine, Dissertation On First Principles Of Government
"On Sunday evening, members of the Harvest Assembly of God Church in Penn Township sing songs as they burn books, video and CDs that they have judged offensive to their God."
Bulter Eagle, March 26, 2001