Thursday, December 31, 2009

Court declares 'Allah' ban invalid

From Malaysiakini: In a landmark judgment, the Kuala Lumpur High Court presented the Catholic Church a belated Christmas present by ruling that the Home Ministry's blanket ban on the use of the word 'Allah' is illegal.

In making the decision to allow the motion by the Catholic Church to set aside the ban, High Court judge Lau Bee Lan stated that the minister's order is “illegal, null and void”.

She said that Catholic weekly The Herald can use the word 'Allah' and that the term is not exclusive to Islam.

This overturning of the Home Ministry's earlier ban will allow the Catholic weekly Herald and other non-Islamic publications to use the word 'Allah' as a direct translation for the word 'God' in the Malay language versions of their publications.

Justice Lau said that all Malaysians had the constitutional right to use the word 'Allah'.

However, given the implication of the case, it is likely that the Home Ministry will appeal against the decision to the higher courts.

The landmark case, which was supposed to be heard at the Jalan Duta court complex yesterday, had been postponed to today because Lau said she needed more time to consider her decision.

National security vs religious freedom

The Home Ministry had invoked concerns of national security and said that the ban was to avert any confusion that could ensue should non-Islamic publications use the word 'Allah' as a substitute for 'God'.

The ministry asserted that 'Allah' was exclusive to Islam as a term for the 'one true God'. Hence, other religions could not use it as a generic term.

The Catholic Church, in filing the judicial review, however disputed this and argued that the word 'Allah' predates Islam as a generic term for 'God' and has been in use in many places, even in the Middle East.

It said that in Malaysia, the term 'Allah' is widely used among indigenous Christian tribes in Sabah and Sarawak.

The church also argued that the ban goes against the principle of freedom of religion and religious practices as outlined in the federal constitution.

The Herald, circulated among the country's 850,000 Catholics, nearly lost its publishing licence last year for using the word 'Allah'. The paper is printed in four languages, with a circulation of 14,000 copies a week.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Bribery And Corruption In Asia

Bribery and Corruption Dear friends,

We are pleased to announce that we have an upcoming release, Bribery and Corruption: Biblical Reflections and Case Studies for the Marketplace in Asia by Hwa Yung, Bishop for the Methodist churches in Malaysia. More details about the book and how to order copies can be found in the attached pre-order flyer.

The book is due to be released in February 2010 and we are open for orders now.
For enquiries, you may contact Ms Bernice Lee at bernice@graceworks.com.sg.

Graceworks Private Limited
Promoting Spiritual Friendship In Church and Society

Website: www.graceworks.com.sg
Tel No.: 6464 6080
Fax No.: 6464 7040

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why On Earth Are We Here For?

Presented a talk on "Faith And Love" at Uniten Christian Fellowship or TECHFLOW on Wednesday with the transcript here.

Below is my assignment on "The Search For Meaning in Life", teasing out the relevance of Ecclesiastes in Malaysian society

“What is the point of living if everything ends in death? Why on earth we are here for?” These perennial questions about the purpose of life are often raised by most sensitive and reflective people around the world. But our socio-cultural context, in different degrees, influences how we answer that question. Many Malaysians of Chinese origin like my friend (let’s call him “Meng”) are descendants of immigrants who had risked the sea, worked hard and lived frugally to strive for a better future. Like many Malaysian Chinese who live in urban centers, Meng inherited his ancestors’ spirit of diligence and resilience. Wealth accumulation and education for his children (so that they in turn could have better opportunities to make a living) become top priorities since these factors provide a measure of security when he can hardly depend on anyone else for support.

If religion is often a projection of human needs/fears as Freud suggested, then perhaps we can interpret the motivation behind his cultural beliefs like consulting feng shui consultants before setting up a business, the Ching Ming practice of burning paper money for the deceased or the Chinese New Year tradition of welcoming the god of prosperity. It may be observed that the functional god in his life is Money. The pursuit of wealth and the dream of striking a lottery jackpot provide his meaning for existing, sense of security and significance. “Seize the day (Carpe Diem)!” is his life slogan. He would say, “Since we will all ultimately end up in the grave, let’s live with gusto, work hard and play hard and squeeze all the fun and excitement out of the ride”.

The psychologist Viktor Frankl suggested that the will to fulfill a meaning in life is the primary motivational force in humanity. Those who lack a meaning worth living for and find an inner void within their hearts experience ‘existential vacuum’. This is a widespread phenomenon in a rampantly industrializing economy where traditional values are lost. Existential vacuum manifests itself in boredom, addiction (i.e. workaholic, alcoholic or substance abuse), despair, the will to money, apathy or unbridled sexual libido. That could be an apt description of many city dwellers like Meng. What relevance would Qoheleth, the writer of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, have for people like him?

I think Qoheleth would present an unpleasant challenge to those whose pursuits focus on earthly goals that we find ‘under the sun’. All these toils, projects and pleasure are ultimately transient, impermanent and ultimately profitless. Although wisdom, wealth and backpacking in exotic places have temporal benefits, we do not take any gain in life with us when we die. We come into this world alone and empty-handed, so shall we leave it. In the long run, there is no net gain. There is “a time to be born and a time to die” (3:2). “We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us” (5:15). It is like chasing after the wind. Vanity of vanities! Not only do we face the certainty of death, we also face the uncertainties of life. No one knows what would happen to his hard-earned wealth even in this lifetime since injustice (3:16) or bad investment (5:14) could overtake us anytime. The Chinese proverb “Wealth does not pass three generations” has often been proven correct with nepotism, poor management and power struggles occurring in Chinese family enterprises. Who can tell if his successor will not squander his wealth (2:18-23)? While all human needs (i.e. food, shelter, clothes) can be satisfied, human greed for money is inherently insatiable. When we try to fill up the vacuum in our hearts with material things, we end up consuming more with ever-decreasing joy with each additional purchase (5:10-11).

But Meng may wonder, “Why should my worldly ambitions be profitless if it gives me a sense of worth and security? And why must life be eternal in order for it to be meaningful?” Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel would probably agree that human life viewed as a whole is absurd apart from God but insist that we could still find life subjectively meaningful as long as we don’t wonder if it fits into some larger purpose. Entertaining such thoughts is a sign of taking ourselves too seriously. Existentialists like Sartre would probably urge us to create a self-customized meaning and define our own essence from our bare existence. Without God, there is no objective, cosmic meaning in life. But it also makes all sorts of subjective meanings possible.

Some may even argue that an infinite life would be meaningless because we will get tired of it eventually. Consider Karl Popper who said, “There are those who think that life is valueless because it comes to an end. They fail to see that the opposite argument might also be proposed: that if there were no end to life, life would have no value; that it is, in part, the ever-present danger of losing it which helps bring home to us the value of life.” Life is perceived to be worthwhile and significant only because mortality awaits us, bringing a sense of poignant urgency to our transitory lives. Albert Camus’ solution to the urgent question of “Why live and not commit suicide?” is basically a call to stoically face the tension of absurdity.

However, there remains a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction for most people in conceding that our lives are not connected to something bigger than ourselves. The significance of a movie snapshot depends on how it contributed to the conclusion of the whole story (of which the captured moment is a part). Only when we see that connection would we conclude the meaning of that picture as part of a comedy or a tragedy. Unless we know how the story ends, we do not know its significance or meaning. This existential vacuum becomes more acute when we consider the gross injustices that were committed and appeared unpunished in the lifetime of their perpetrators. Qoheleth rightly observed that “even in the courts of law, the very place where righteousness and justice are supposed to be guaranteed, wickedness may be present” (3:16). In this moral context, the demand for a cosmic meaning in life is not motivated not so much by hubris but by justice. The philosopher Immanuel Kant saw that ethics are practically meaningless without God and the afterlife. If death is an abyss of nothingness, then the victims who suffered for a righteous cause under oppressive regimes have ultimately faced a meaningless death. In contrast, Qoheleth offers the alternative of a solid confidence that God will “judge every deed under the sun, whether good or bad, hidden or not” (12:14).

Ethics and significance in life make sense only when we presuppose God.

For most people, there is an existential dissatisfaction with accepting that at the bottom of our lives, there is no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. But the moment we look up and see if life as a whole makes sense, the question of ultimate meaning comes back to haunt us. No wonder we desperately seek escapism from confronting this horrible abyss of nothingness by drowning ourselves with subjective meanings like work, relationships, leisure and power. This ‘coping mechanism’ needs to be maintained diligently because God had “put eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out what God does from beginning to the end” (3:12). There is an internal God-given preoccupation (3:10) whereby human beings are able to transcend the present moment and survey the past and think of the future. Yet they were not able to find out or change what God had determined, and so, their sense of vanity is aggravated. For God so works that men should fear Him (3:14).

William Lane Craig put it like this: “If each individual person passes out of existence when he dies, then what ultimate meaning can be given to his life? Does it really matter whether he ever existed at all? It might be said that his life was important because it influenced others or affected the course of history. But this only shows a relative significance to his life, not an ultimate significance. His life may be important relative to certain other events, but what is the ultimate significance of any of those events? If all the events are meaningless, then what can be the ultimate meaning of influencing any of them? Ultimately, it makes no difference”. For Qoheleth, a transitory life is meaningful as we choose responsibly to live in the fear of God and to keep his commandments (12:13). This is a perspective on death that is not mere passive acceptance, but one which urges us to enjoy life each day that God has given as a gift (3:12-13, 22).

In 2:24-26 Qoheleth affirmed that the ability to have carefree enjoyment is “from the hand of God.” Only when we embrace the reality that life is transient would we be liberated from greed, lust and despair and turn to God as the source of our significance. Ironically, by fearing God and keeping His commandments on marital faithfulness, honest labor and wise living, we are empowered to enjoy these temporal blessings to the full while we live. Leong Tien Fock wrote, “Since we have no say over whether we could take with us what we have when we die, which can happen at any time and without prior notice, how can we say that we own the things we work for? We do not even own our very life! They are not allotted to us as such. What is allotted is only the enjoyment these things can give us while we still “own” them. To appreciate this reality we need to view this world the way a child views a child-care center full of toys. What is “allotted” to him is the enjoyment of whatever toys he gets to “own” while he is there, but he cannot take any of them with him when he leaves. It would be foolish of the child to spend the few hours he has at the center busy looking out for and gathering his favorite toys, and then guarding them, as if he could bring them home, and in the process miss the opportunity to enjoy any of them.” Instead of making temporal wealth, pleasure and wisdom our idols, we can worship the Giver and thereby, enjoy these gifts truly as we put them in the proper perspective.

Last but not least, it is true that a transient life evokes a certain poignant urgency as Popper says. For example, we appreciate our loved ones more if we know we will lose them for good one day. However, Christian theism goes beyond that to claim that such relationships and significant endeavors may not terminate in death. Would that really diminish the meaning of life? The notion that eternal life would be boring and meaningless is based on the unproven assumption that the joys of heaven would be exhaustible. But why should we assume that in order to advance a strawman argument? Christian theism actually affirms that apart from the joys of reunion with loved ones and fulfilling work that awaits us in the renewed creation, we will spend eternity in relationship with the inexhaustible God Himself.


Theologian John Piper put it this way: “God is infinite and wills to reveal himself to us for our enjoyment of his fullness forever. Yet we are finite and cannot at any time, or in any finite duration of time, comprehend the limitless, infinite fullness of God’s glory… Therefore the implication is that our union with God, in the all-satisfying experience of his glory, can never be complete, but must be increasing with intimacy and intensity forever and ever.” There will always be more of God to discover, learn and savor since finite creatures will never exhaustively know Him. Therefore, glorifying and enjoying God forever remains the meaningful purpose for humanity. From his grace, we can accept and enjoy the good gifts of His creation – be it challenging achievements, authentic relationships and beauty.

Pictures courtesy of Animal World and Stu's View and Philosophy @ Fort Hare and Ginside

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Book Review: Man Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl


Questions about life’s meaning and suffering which were formerly handled by priests or rabbis are now increasingly confronted by psychiatrists and doctors. In his bestseller Man's Search for Meaning, Dr Victor Frankl highlighted the distinctive of logotherapy, also known as the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy”, as the idea that “the striving to find a meaning in one's life is the primary motivational force in man”. Therefore, for logotheraphy, the focus is on the will to meaning in contrast to the will to pleasure of Freudian psychoanalysis and the will to power stressed by Adlerian psychology. While Freud and Adler tried to discover primal drives latent in the past, Frankl focuses rather on the meanings one is called to fulfill in the future. In his moving autobiographical account of experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, he observed how prisoners who lost hope in the future would be subject to mental and physical decay.

According to Frankl, man’s search for meaning is not a derived projection from more basic instinctual drives or sublimations. Otherwise it would lose its ability to challenge or summon him to live or even die for these values. Unlike Sartre’s axiom that existence precedes essence, Frankl’s existentialism asserts that the meaning of our existence is not invented by ourselves but rather we discover it as ‘something confronting existence’. Those who lack a meaning worth living for and find an inner void within their hearts experience ‘existential vacuum’. This is a widespread phenomenon of the twentieth century due to the loss of traditional values and rampant industrialization, manifesting itself in boredom, addiction, the will to money, apathy or unbridled sexual libido.

As a Christian, I applaud Frankl’s critique of the determinism prevailing in much of psychoanalysis that reduced man to nothing but a victim of hereditary or environmental conditions. We share the hope that a ‘rehumanized psychiatry’ would replace the tendency to treat human minds as machines and focus on mere techniques. Indeed, Frankl’s view of man is biblical in the sense that man has both the potentials of behaving like a swine or a saint. Man’s dignity lies in him being created in the image of God and yet marred by the depravity of sin. However, Frankl has an overly optimistic view of human freedom in which even the most evil persons are ultimately self-determining. Through restricted by conditions, they are free to change their own destiny. In the Christian perspective, fallen man is in need of divine rescue and inner liberation before such a change is possible. As long as his basic orientation is self-centered, the outward change merely vacillates between hedonism and legalism. ‘Existential vacuum’ (and its symptoms) express in modern terms Augustine’s ancient prayer that our hearts are restless until they find fulfillment or satisfaction in God.

Read on for the rest of the article

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Meaning Of Life (Ecclesiastes)

The major hermeneutical difficulty of Ecclesiastes is to understand its apparent internal contradictions. At times, Qoheleth seemed to be pessimistic or gloomy about everything in life (“All is vanity!”) while at other times, he admonished readers to enjoy their labor, eat well, live joyfully with one’s wife and receive with gladness what God has given. As a result, interpreters have conflicting descriptions of Qoheleth as a skeptic (R. B. Y. Scott) or an orthodox theist (Aalders, Leupold). Others have tried to resolve the tension by spiritualizing exegesis (Jewish Targum and medieval Christians), positing a dialogue between two differing speakers (Yeard, Eichhorn) or by presenting the futility of the world for evangelistic purposes so that readers will pursue the delights of heaven (the Puritans, Wesley). Eaton took issue with interpreters (Barton, McNeile and Podechard) who saw Ecclesiates as a basically skeptical work with glossatorial additions at the hands of orthodox editor(s) as it would entail a clumsy redactor who added conflicting comments to 'skeptical' passages in the same book. He could have more easily amended these passages altogether. But there is no textual support for such changes, the vocabulary of alleged insertions is remarkably similar to undisputed passages and no methodological necessity exists for such theories if an alternative exposition could reconcile these sections coherently.

Michael Eaton attempted an approach that avoids the pitfalls of critical orthodoxy which downplayed the orthodox elements within Ecclesiastes and traditional orthodoxy which at times has ignored or allegorized its pessimism. “What, then, is the purpose of Ecclesiastes? It is an essay in apologetics. It defends the life of faith in a generous God by pointing to the grimness of the alternative.” He saw a heaven-earth dichotomy in which ‘God is in heaven and you upon earth’ (5:2). The recurring expressions like ‘under the sun’, ‘under heaven’ and ‘on earth’ described the futility of a barren life without reference to faith in God. Therefore, much of the book was blanketed by pessimism. When such terminologies fade away (2:24-26; 11:1-12:14), a more positive tone emerges with references to the ‘hand of God’ (2:24), the joy of man (2:25, 3:12. 5:18, 20, 9:7, 11:7-9), and the generosity of God (2:26, 3:13, 5:19). Qoheleth showed the inevitable bankruptcy of ‘secularism’ in order to drive us to God where life’s meaning can be fulfilled. “It is only to one seeking satisfaction in disregard of God that the Preacher’s message stops at ‘All is vanity’… When a perspective of faith is introduced ‘All is vanity’ is still true, but it is not the whole picture; ‘under the sun’ it is the whole truth.”

But what does the phrase ‘under the sun’ mean? Read on for the whole article

The Genesis Enigma



Professor Andrew Parker is one of those scientists who are Christians that do not see a dichotomy between science and religion. Presently he teaches at Green College at the University of Oxford and at the University of Sidney. He is also the Research Leader at The Natural History Museum in London. With his impeccable scientific background, Parker attempts to approach the first two chapters of Genesis - the Creation account. He takes pains to establish at the beginning of the book of his belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. However he takes issue with those who takes the first two chapters of Genesis literally. The first two chapters should be understood as an account on how life was established on earth as by one who narrates an event. Thus the 'days' are not literal 24 hours but periods of time.

Starting from the Big Bang and using the latest scientific discoveries, Parker relates the scientific account of evolution to the first two chapters of Genesis. In the first chapter of Genesis, there is twice when God said, "Let there be light" - verse 2 and verse 14. Parker attributes the first light (v.2) to be the event after the Big Bang when energy is converted to matter thereby forming atoms and later suns, galaxies, and planets. Then he shifted his focus to earth where in the hot, volcanic surface of the earth, complex molecules came together to form single cells organism. These cells became more complex by using photosynthesis to store energy. The first complex organisms to populate the land were plants thus agreeing with the Genesis account.

It is in the second account of light (v.14) that Parker proposes his bold assertion. He suggests that the second account is when eyes were evolved. These newly evolved organisms were better at survival because they can see (see the light?). This, Parker postulates, is the reason for the fantastic expansion of new species in the Cambrian Period in earth's history. This is his 'Light Switch Theory' which won him the 'Scientist of the Year' award by The Royal Institution (London) in 2000. It is the evolution of eyes that aided in the evolution of sea creatures, birds and land animals. Parker is convinced that the evolution theory is no longer a theory but established facts. Thus he implies that creationism and intelligent design is not rational.

The main thesis of this book is that there is no way the author/authors of the first two chapters of Genesis can know enough about the Big Bang and evolution to describe so accurately the order of events for the development of life on earth. This and the question of 'what is energy' before the Big Bang is the Genesis enigma. Parker suggests that the answer can only be God.

While the scientist in me cheered Parker on as he describes the various scientific processes in his book, however the theologian in me was troubled by the way he try to fit together the Genesis account and the theory of evolution. Parker's discovery of the development of the eye as the Big Bang of evolution is a major milestone in evolution theory. However I was not comfortable when he applied it to explain the second account of 'let here be light' (Gen.1:14).

This is an admirable attempt to reconcile the theory of evolution with the first two chapters of Genesis by an eminent scientist. However, like eminent theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher in the nineteenth century who tried to reconcile Christianity to the scientific worldview, it creates more questions than answers. There will always be gaps in our understanding of God and his handiwork.

This is a good book and I will recommend it to those who wants to know more about what happens after the Big Bang and how life appears on earth.

Now attend Dr Ron Choong's course on Genesis..

Monday, December 07, 2009

Some Thoughts on Theological Education in Asia

Abstract

Asia is in a constant flux of rapid socio-economic changes. The church is growing rapidly and there is a need for competent, confident and spiritually matured pastors and leaders. The curriculum for theological education in Asian seminaries is often based on the traditional classic fourfold content of biblical studies, systematic theology, church history, and practical theology. There is a tendency for these institutions to focus strongly on content in their curriculums. Their approach to teaching is usually instructional schooling which is the proven pedagogy for content transmission. Unfortunately instructional schooling has been proven not effective in producing graduates capable of complex decision making, creative thinking, reflective in actions, and life long learning. These are essential qualities for spiritual leadership in the information age. Problem based learning (PBL) with its track record in medical education offers the pedagogy to develop these qualities. Seminaries in Asia should seriously consider a radical paradigm shift in curriculum redesign following the Problem based Learning (PBL) pedagogy.

read more

This is an article I wrote about a challenge to theological education in Asia. I have earlier blogged about some thoughts I have while researching for this article.

Are learning ancient languages useful for pastors?
Are our pastors adequately prepared for ministry?
Do theological education forms or deforms spiritual formation?

Here are some interesting comments on theological education made on blogs recently by an Asian student and a seminary lecturer.

Sze Zeng
Local theological study, church and the end of the first semester
Kar Yong
What my students think of us

Please read my article and let me know what you think.

.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Thinking Things Through



SCIENCE & CHRISTIANITY

The doctrine of providence shows science as a gift from the God who reveals and desires that we know of Him through both nature and witness (Scriptures). In this seminar, we consider how we may reconcile our ancient faith with modern science.


WHAT DO CHRISTIANS REALLY BELIEVE?

Trust in God assumes a desire to learn more about God. A faith not nurtured by knowledge will remain immature and superficial, vulnerable to doubt and of little use in evangelism. In this seminar, we shall examine the 4 doctrines central to Christian belief – creation, alienation, reconciliation and decision (CARD).


UNDERSTANDING GENESIS 1-11: WHO WROTE WHAT, WHERE, WHEN AND WHY?

The first book in our Bible was not the first book written. Understanding its history and purpose will help us make sense of its curious stories. In this seminar, we shall ask who wrote Genesis 1-11, where and when they did it, and what their purpose was.

WHO?
Dr. Ron Choong

FOR?
Anyone interested in the above topics.

WHEN?
Saturday 16th January 2010
Topic 1 - 10:00am to 11:30am
Topic 2 - 11:30am to 1:00pm
Topic 3 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm

WHAT TIME?
starts 10:00am sharp

WHERE?
Community Baptist Church main sanctuary,
107 & 109A, Jln SS2/6,
47300 Petaling Jaya
(click for map)

HOW MUCH?
RM30 per person, registration is required by SATURDAY 9th January 2010. Limited to 200 participants only.

HOW TO REGISTER AND PAY?
To register, pls click here and follow the instructions to pay (you will be directed to Canaanland website for online payment). If you have any queries, please e-mail them to info@act-asia.org This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Thank you.

What Are T3 Seminars?
T3 refers to 'Thinking Things Through'. Since we are what we believe, and we believe what we think, it makes sense to think carefully what we think about so that our thoughts may well be thought out.

ACT's signature T3 seminars provide a theological safe space to deal with sincere questions, as we doubt our way into beliefs. Register ahead of time, read the provided handouts and ask pertinent questions during the Q & A.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Fare Thee Well


The certainty of death and uncertainties of life were themes that run through my mind as I read the book of Ecclesiastes and Dr Leong's online commentary. Only this week, I watched the bitter-sweet Japanese movie The Departures, after reading the review on Kairos magazine. A few weeks back, I drove a seminary classmate around Klang, looking for food and took a wrong turn that ended up at a funeral parlour. Cursing my mistake, I sensed at that moment a 'premonition' that death is near someone close to me.

7:2 It is better to go to the house of mourning
Than to the house of feasting,
Because this is the end of every man,
And the living will take it to heart.
7:3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when the face is sad the heart may be glad.
7:4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
While the heart of the fool is in the house of pleasure.

None of that prepared me for Tuesday when I received news that our dear friend and sister in Christ, Carol Rasiah, has been called home to be with the Lord. She was in coma after a road accident.

I count it a privilege to know Carol personally as a friend. She has a burning zest for life, fiercely independent and never afraid to speak her mind (Mom says she has a sharp and quick tongue). I didn't know she has touched many lives in this USJ forum until after she has passed on...

“Every man dies - Not every man really lives.”
(William Wallace in the movie Braveheart)

At the funeral at Klang Gospel Hall on Wednesday, Pastor Caleb shared that every physical move she made (getting down from wheel chair, cook, get on bed) is a veritable stunt act. He asked her "How did you do it?" (Her bones were brittle, and she suffered from painful multiple breaks on her arms before)

Her reply was, "Before I make any move, I pray"...

We miss her dearly and look forward to the day when she will be rejoicing in her brand new resurrected body in a renewed heaven/earth.

When I see her presence in CDPC, I thought something is just so right when the church reflects an inclusiveness that warmly embraces weak-but-precious persons like Carol to worship together with us.

She is a fighter since birth. Despite the many challenges she faces on a daily basis, pity is not a word in her lexicon. She lived life to the hilt and seemed to be everywhere as an activist for disabled people (check out her last email to YB Hannah Yeoh), care for animals, attending seminars/forums, writing, teaching English to children=neighbors at Angsana flats... last Christmas, my wife and I were at her apartment where she lived mostly on her own. She asked Grace to buy her a Chinese dictionary to pick up Mandarin! She has a vociferous appetite for books and often asked for my suggestions... She is a constant cheerleader for what the Agora tried to stand for.

I have never heard her complained about her lot in life. Never. She requested for prayers via sms when the pain is unbearable. She argued with God about cockroaches but deep down there exudes a confident and intimate trust in the goodness of a Father who took care of her. "Father, If I fall down flat, it's all Your fault". Some of us never lived as beautifully as that.

Here is a recent blog post Carol wrote: "
Sixth of November was a phenomenal day for me. I never realized it until I was with a group of people that night.
That day marked a significant assurance that though I’m appallingly disable and inadequately equipped to meet the challenges ahead single-handedly, my biblical knowledge assured me that God’s collateral was solid. This day marked my two years stay in Angsana alone.

As I laid alone on my new bed in Angsana flats on the first night, with unlocked wooden door. All kinds of asinine & impractical questions zoomed into my mind; it kept me awake for a few hours. I imagine that the biblical characters too must have experience this psychological phobia. They were human being too & God took care of it.

My past reflection are not totally eclipsed, they are fresh on my mind. As I type these words, scenes of it are rekindled, some are like a comedy and some are quite spectacle, like learning to kill a cockroach, how I loathed these crawlies, in fact God & I had a argument over it as I made a lot of fuss over it. The good news is I’ve have learned not to scream or hide in my bed when I see one!!!
Yes, it was not a smooth sailing; there was the emotional turmoil, the social fiasco & personal calamity. It was a unique way of appreciating the God given life.
"

Another prayer of hers was read out at her funeral

I did not go to church today. I do not feel guilty about it. There is something very ‘special’ in spending time alone with God who is my Heavenly Father, on a Sunday. It is too awesome for words!

God You are amazing. You have taken care of all my needs. I lack nothing at the moment, You have not deprived me of anything, neither have You starved me since the day I have decided to live alone. That why I say You are phenomenal, incredibly & influential.

Your ubiquitous Presence truly comforts me in my time of loneness. Even though it pains me sometimes – I am consoled from memory of Your word & biblical characters. You refresh my memory & soothe my emotions. I have no qualms of Your predominance. The past & present phenomenon’s displays the singularity of Your signature in my life.

Your indulgent to my shortcoming never fail to inspire me to do better in the future. Thank you for Your amazing perceptive.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Wawasan Penabur

"Dia yang menyediakan benih bagi penabur, dan roti untuk dimakan, Dia juga yang akan menyediakan benih bagi kamu dan melipat-gandakannya dan menumbuhkan buah-buah kebenaranmu." 2 Korintus 9:10
Visi Kami

Menabur, menumbuh dan menyebarkan bahan sumber Bahasa Malaysia yang terbaik di kalangan penutur BM di Malaysia

Misi & Tujuan Kami

Menabur & Menanam dengan cara mengenalpasti, mengumpul, mengembang dan mengedar media sumber Kristian dalam BM

Menumbuh & Mengakar dengan cara bekerjasama dengan penulis, penterjemah, penerbit, pastor, ahli teologi dan pemimpin yang terlibat dalam pelayanan penguatan gereja

Menyebar & Menebar dengan cara berkongsi semua cabaran dan kesempatan dalam pelayanan BM kepada Tubuh Kristus di Malaysia


Disertai oleh beberapa orang pelayan daripada Semenanjung Malaysia dan penasihat-penasihat Injili seperti Rev. Wong Fong Yang, Ps. Alfred Tais dan Ps. Daniel Raut, kumpulan ini telah membuahkan usaha untuk mengumpul dan memperluaskan penerbitan Kristian dalam negara.

Apa Orang Lain Kata Tentang Kami

"Inisiatif Wawasan Penabur untuk mengenalpasti, berkongsi dan menyebarkan bahan sumber Kristian dalam Bahasa Malaysia kepada kumpulan pribumi layak mendapat sokongan penuh daripada kita semua. Pelayanan ini sangat strategik dan merupakan keperluan yang terutama dalam masa kairos seperti sekarang. Hati nurani kita tidak membenarkan kita menutup sebelah mata terhadap keperluan mendesak satu kumpulan Kristian yang besar di negara ini. Gereja di Semenanjung sangat kaya dengan sumber. Kita boleh berkongsi dan bermurah hati sama seperti orang lain yang sudah berkongsi dan bermurah hati terhadap kita. Gereja di Malaysia akan melemah dan tidak dilengkapi tanpa sokongan kumpulan Kristian ini.”

Rev. Wong Fong Yang, Senior Pastor Gereja Presbyterian City Discipleship dan mantan Moderator Synod Presbyterian di Malaysia

"Enam daripada sepuluh orang Kristian di Malaysia menggunakan BM. Mereka merupakan tulang belakang Tubuh Kristus di Malaysia. Tetapi ramai daripada mereka mengatakan mereka kekurangan sumber dalam BM untuk membangun iman anak mereka, muda-mudi dan pemimpin gereja. Kita perlu membentuk satu kerjasama yang strategik dan kreatif, tanpa memandang denominasi dan bangsa, untuk mengembang bahan sumber BM yang terbaik untuk mereka yang sangat memerlukannya. Wawasan Penabur bertujuan untuk menggenapi visi ini. Doa dan harapan saya adalah supaya satu generasi Kristian yang baru akan bangkit, bersedia untuk menyumbang bakat, masa dan hati mereka untuk pelayanan BM di negara ini.”

Rev. Dr. Hwa Yung, Uskup Gereja Methodist di Malaysia

“ Gereja BM and OA perlu memberi sokongan kepada komitmen WP untuk melayani umat Kristian berbahasa Malaysia yang melintasi denominasi melalui penerbitan bahan-bahan bacaan dalam BM. Pertumbuhan iman tidak hanya terhad kepada secara lisan (khutbah) sahaja, tetapi juga melalui bahan-bahan bacaan, dan disalut i dengan tersedianya sumber pengajaran yang baik. Bahan sumber dalam Bahasa semakin susah kita dapatkan dari luar negara kerana sebab-sebab tertentu. Oleh itu usaha WP untuk mengumpul, menerbit dan menyebar bahan sumber dalam BM perlu diberi sokongan dan kerjasama dari gereja BM dan OA.“

Pr. Alfred R. Tais, Setiausaha Eksekutif Komisi Bahasa Malaysia National Evangelical Christian Fellowship

“Gereja di Malaysia masih belum terjaga untuk menyahut panggilan pelayanan BM secara serius. Sekarang adalah masa yang genting untuk kita menebus semua waktu yang terhilang. Kita perlu sedar bahawa Tubuh Kristus di Malaysia bukan terdiri dari gereja-gereja berbahasa Inggris dan Cina di bandar sahaja, tetapi juga sebahagian besar pribumi Kristian. Tidak dapat dinafikan lagi sekiranya umat Kristian mahu membuat satu impak jangka panjang di negara ini, kita harus mengambil satu langkah besar untuk menjawab keperluan mendesak dan yang strategik untuk pelayanan BM.”

Tan Hwee Yong, penterjemah dan penulis puluhan buku BM termasuklah Embun Pagi, Bayu Penghaparan dan Mabuk Sebelum Fajar Menyingsing.

Kunjungi laman web mereka di sini

Pautan lain :

Pusat Sumber Wawasan Penabur
Projek Pemuridan Belia Kristian
Kamus Istilah Kristian

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Imaging God At Work

Dr Mark Lovatt preached a marketplace theology sermon on "Imaging God At Work" based on the Cultural mandate text from Genesis. Sermon Audio Can Be Downloaded Here.

He holds a Phd in Theology from University of Nottingham, UK and wrote a monograph on Confronting the Will-To-Power: A Reconsideration of the Theology of Reinhold Niebuhr. He now lectures in STM and working with Christians in the marketplace to integrate faith and business.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pluralism In Malaysia

Malaysia takes pride in being a culturally diverse and multiethnic nation which has been spared from violent conflicts that have beset neighboring Indonesia and Thailand. Like the local delicacy called ‘rojak’, our religious context is a potent mix of various ingredients that rivals that of Athens during the days of Apostle Paul. However it does not mean that our national psyche is completely free from dark memories of May 13 riots and uneasy tensions about our status as an ‘Islamic state’. On the contrary, these repressed memories have a habit of returning to haunt us whenever ‘sensitive’ religious issues enter public discourse. On such rare occasions, citizens are dutifully reminded, under threat of the Internal Security Act, how easy it is for the religious ‘rojak’ to degenerate into something less tasteful.

What Is Pluralism?

In such a delicate scenario, the Malaysian church needs to carefully consider how to relate with other religious communities and consequently, her task of mission. While we are obviously living in a world with diverse religious perspectives, religious pluralism is a particular view that these religions are equally valid in terms of access to truth and effectiveness in salvation. This view is illustrated beautifully by the ancient story of ten blind men trying to describe an elephant after touching different parts of its body for the first time. As they announced their conflicting discoveries, a heated argument ensued. Awakened by the quarrel, the king corrected all of them by saying, “The elephant is a huge animal and each of you touched a part. In order to know the whole truth about what the elephant looks like, you must put together all the parts!” The moral of the story is that no religion has privileged access to the whole truth. Each religious view is a partial experience of the same Reality from its own culturally-conditioned perspective.

This view is popular because tolerance towards all religions is needed to ward off violent fundamentalism in the wake of post-911 ‘war on terror’. However, pluralism is not as religiously ‘neutral’ as it may appear to be. At face-value, it has been historically the view of particular religions like Buddhism, Hinduism and Bahai faith. In contrast, Islam and Christianity historically held to the finality of divine revelation in Koran and Jesus respectively. More recently, though, John Hick is a prominent Christian theologian who called for a Copernican revolution in which the universe of faiths are seen as centered on God, instead of Christ, whose Light is reflected in all major world religions. He unpacked the pluralistic hypothesis that “the great world faiths embody different perceptions and concepts of, and correspondingly different responses to, the Real from within the major variant ways of being human, and that within each of them the transformation of human existence from self-centeredness to Reality-centredness is taking place. These traditions are accordingly to be regarded as alternative soteriological ‘spaces’ within, or ‘ways’ along which, men and women can find salvation/liberation /ultimate fulfillment.”

Read the shorter article appearing on CCM newsletter or the longer version appearing on the Hedonese

Blind Men & Elephant - Pluralism CCM

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ecology: Local Trends and Issues


From Kairos: The current mindset of the public towards environmental protection is much too simplistic, with most people relying only on two key factors in their consumer choices: recyclability and biodegradability.

Too much faith is placed in recycling as a solution to the increasing mountains of trash being generated. Firstly, not everything is easily recyclable (as in the case of assorted plastics), or is worth recycling (whether from an energy consumption point of view or in terms of the cost factor). Other factors such as concern for hygiene may also deter the reusing of certain items.

For example, in the case of glass bottles, which are totally recyclable, the trend in the industry is to switch to single-use bottles, especially for beverages. This is because the washing and sterilising of used bottles is not exactly a low-energy process, and this does not yet take into account the cost and energy involved in transporting the used bottle from the end user back to the bottling plant. Furthermore, there are liability issues (especially in the litigious West) to be reckoned with when reusing glass containers.

The benefits of a product being “totally biodegradable” are also overrated. In properly managed landfills, nothing ought to decompose or biodegrade as this will produce leachate, which in turn needs to be treated. As such, innovations like biodegradable plastic (and whatever else that is touted as being biodegradable) will not help much in reducing the amount of waste if they are not composted.

The fact is, being biodegradable counts for nothing if the product ends up going to the landfill. On the other hand, biodegradable products or waste (like paper, textiles, leather, garden wastes) are combustible, which suit incinerators just fine.
In deciding what constitutes a “better” material (besides recyclability and biodegradability) for our daily applications, we must appreciate the concept of embedded energy (EE), which means the total sum of energy and other input needed to manufacture a product. For example, if more energy, water and money is required to reuse glass bottles for soft drinks (compared to disposable plastic bottles), then it cannot be said that glass is always an “environmentally friendlier”, or better, choice.

This does not mean that recycling has no place in modern society. Putting aside all economic barriers, the chief hindrance to the success of any recycling programme lies in the attitude of consumers. The fact is, separating all the waste generated in one's home is a cumbersome, if not unappealing, task for many. It takes significant effort to ensure that all the different types of wastes are sorted out properly.

As consumers, we must make wise purchasing decisions. Too often, we buy what is
convenient and cheap without taking into account the product’s durability (which will prevent it from becoming landfill material quickly, thus wasting more precious resources) and its overall long-term impact on the environment.

Christians need to be mindful of how their individual choices affect the environment. In dealing with the growing mound of trash, Christians have another alternative: REFUSE, adding another R to the list. In a lot of instances, this should be our first choice. By consuming less, we avoid the tough question of whether it is better to reuse or recycle, to landfill or incinerate. In the meantime, we should get acquainted with the science, economics and lifecycle of the things we consume, and not be misled by simplistic suggestions on what is better for the environment.

Meng Yew Choong is a journalist with a Malaysian English daily.

Spiritual Formation on the Run


My book, Spiritual Formation on the Run has been selling steadily since it's launch in January this year. Many persons have been blessed by reading it and I am so happy. I pray that the Lord will continue to use the book to touch lives.

2nd print of the books arrived today.


I hope you will support the ministry by buying copies for friends to give as Christmas presents.
I do not receive a single cent from my writing and publishing. The proceeds for this book goes to support the 1st Johor Bahru Boys Brigade's activities.

You can order copies from your local bookstores (it will help me if you ask them to order if they do not have stock), Amazon.com or from me via draltang@yahoo.com

More about the book here




.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

2012: End of the World... Again?



We will put up a CDPC library book booth this coming Sunday with some free giveaways. While Stock Lasts...

Kairos Seminar on Jesus Christ and Early Christianity

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.

Topics/Speakers
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: kairosmalaysia@gmail.com)

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

The "Wednesbury Unreasonable" Gospel

Lukas Lim has kindly sent us this article he wrote amidst his busy schedule doing law in Cambridge.

"… but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…" - 1 Corinthians 1:23


Every now and then, people decide to do things that are so utterly bizarre or misguided that others can only conclude that they have lost their minds. With exasperation, they throw up their hands and ask, "what were these people thinking?"
The legal term for such irrationality is "Wednesbury unreasonableness". As Lord Diplock notes in Council of Civil Service Unions v. Minister for the Civil Service Respondent :

[i]t applies to a decision so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who applied his mind to the question to be decided could have arrived at it.
While His Lordship said those words with the executive in mind, I must admit that I read this case with God at the forefront of my mine. Turning to creation, for instance, I often wondered why God created us. What prompted Him to create human beings whom He knew would fall into sin, such that He could only save them at the highest possible cost to Himself?

The gospel did not make any sense at all; in fact, it appeared to be foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23). What was God thinking?

An Outrageous Defiance of Logic?
It might be argued that God’s reasons are beyond us; that they defy all attempts at a logical explanation and that we should not attempt to make sense of the divine mystery of the unknowable God. The Biblical authority that is often quoted in support of this comes from Isaiah 55:8-9:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts... "

On the other hand, we believe that we are rational beings, capable of logical thought. Any acknowledgement that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours must therefore also be an admission that God possesses a logical and rational mind that is far superior to ours. He must therefore have had good logical reasons for the creation and redemption of humanity.

While we should accept that an infinite God will always be beyond our grasp, it is no use saying that God’s rationality is somehow beyond reason for that would be a contradiction in terms. It may certainly be beyond us as human beings , but we can at least rest assured that it is not beyond reason. However outrageous God’s decisions appear, they are not in defiance of logic. So what logical reason lay behind God’s decision to create us?

Read the full article below:

The Wednesbury Unreasonable Gospel

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Allah Is Not A Personal Name

Kam Weng: "It is bad enough when the Malaysian government bans Christians from using the word Allah. It is worse when some misguided Christians (granted it is a small minority) agree that Muslims have sole proprietary rights to the word Allah, even though this capitulation amounts to surrendering their centuries old usage of the word Allah for worship and spiritual instructions.

Perhaps this capitulation results from a misunderstanding of Arabic grammar, that is, the view that Allah is a personal name. Allah, as such, refers solely to the individual Supreme Being whom Muslims (and no other believers) worship. Accepting this misunderstanding would give grounds to the Muslim’s (still contestable) demand that only they have the right to use the word Allah and its related terms.Such a capitulation must be vigorously resisted seeing how the Malaysian government unrelentingly prosecutes its ban against Christians using the word Allah. It is imperative that we analyze and correct this misunderstanding."

Read on for the rest of the article "Allah Is Not A Personal Name".

Alfred Tais (of NECF) while compiling documents for the SIB Allah cases came across some documents that shows the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia / Bahasa Indonesia were published earlier than 1950. For example, Matthew's Gospel was first published by Dutchman AC Ruyl in 1629. The Perjanjian Baru was published in 1668 while the Alkitab was published in 1733.

Get to know the history of Alkitab in these documents The Bible Translator, Sejarah Terjemahan Alkitab dalam bahasa bahasa tempatan di Indonesia and Mengenal Alkitab Anda. Be equipped and vigilant in prayer as 15000 bibles seized by malaysian government this past year


Mengenal Alkitab Anda - Title Page

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Did Jesus wear designer robes?

The Prosperity Gospel from The Global Conversation on Vimeo.

J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu
Part of the Lausanne Global Conversation


The growth of non-Western Christianity across Africa is largely due to the New Pentecostal Churches. Upwardly-mobile youth are drawn to their dynamic worship styles and pursuit of wealth and success. The prosperity gospel has found fertile soil as it resonates with tribal religion. Prosperity promoters raise serious theological concerns. The gospel of Jesus Christ neither glorifies poverty nor prosperity.

For thousands of believers in Ghana, “Jericho Hour” is the place to be on a Thursday morning. Founded in 1998, this prayer meeting—where “giant solutions await your giant problems”—is hosted by Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams in the Prayer Cathedral on Accra’s Spintex Road. Three thousand make their way there to pray for breakthroughs in business, for international travel, for a suitable spouse, and, when experiencing setbacks, for vengeance on those spiritually responsible.

It is part of a wider movement founded by Duncan-Williams in 1979. His African mentor was the late Benson Idahosa of Nigeria, who conferred upon himself the titles of “Professor” and “Archbishop.” Duncan-Williams’s personal transition from “Pastor” through unauthenticated “Rev. Dr.” to “Bishop” and now “Archbishop” is no less intriguing.

Duncan-Williams’s 26-year marriage ended in divorce in 2005 after much-publicized efforts at reconciliation mediated by the American pastor T. D. Jakes. In 2008 he married a wealthy African-American diplomat turned entrepreneur, and lives in Accra in a home which is widely described as palatial. Such lavish displays of wealth are usually the domain of politicians, who are believed to achieve their material success by stealing from the public purse. Rumor about the sources of the couple’s wealth is probably inevitable.

Read on for the rest of the article (plus responses)

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 Canaanland.com.my, 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.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Word Works

Check out Word Works conference on the book of Deuteronomy

Dates: 27 - 28 Nov 2009
Venue: Empress Hotel Sepang.

"These may be some of the reasons why reading Deuteronomy presents specific challenges and also potential discouragement for Christians. Even worse, Christians sometimes speak of the Old Testament as being largely irrelevant and cite Deuteronomy as proof. Non-Christians also often take verses like those above as reasons for rejecting the ‘Old Testament God’ or for rejecting Christianity altogether.

And yet, at the end of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy stands as an important pillar in understanding the Old Testament and is a landmark in the history of salvation, at an important point in the relationship between Israel and God.

In fact, for every generation of Christians, Deuteronomy has great blessing for the Christian in understanding God’s character, His holiness, His mercy, love, justice and His patience with a sinful people. So many of the concepts for how God relates to His people are found here in Deuteronomy that it would be a tragedy for Christians not to know how to read it."

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

THE REAL JESUS CHRIST OF HISTORY

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.

Topics/Speakers
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: kairosmalaysia@gmail.com)

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

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Call Of Malaysian Christian Artist

Pastor Keng Sen has generously shared some of his artistic works in this blog. Enjoy! If you'd like to be part of a network of Christian artists in Malaysia, do get in touch with him.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reformation Day 2009

In conjunction with Reformation Day (Oct 31), I have just completed a 5 series introduction to Reformed Theology sharing to a Chinese speaking church planting team in Subang Jaya. We tried to explore how the history of Reformation (5 solas'), the emphasis on cultural mandate, the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace have implications in planting a church in and for the Malaysian city.

Much of the notes are taken from resources on the Internet especially by Matt Perman. I came across his articles long before he became the Desiring God ministry website anchor person and he is very lucid and helpful in almost everything he wrote - always pastoral and clearly, well-thought-out. Here are the notes I have compiled for the group:

An Introduction to Reformed Theology