Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Save Tenaganita Shelter!

The Shelter Cause Appeal Letter

The two-word affirmation *Kyrios Iesous* [Jesus is Lord] sounded pretty harmless at first hearing. But it has far-reaching ramifications. Not only does it express our
conviction that he is God and Saviour, but it also indicates our radical commitment to him. The dimensions of this commitment are intellectual (bringing our minds under
Christ's yoke), moral (accepting his standards and obeying his commands), vocational (spending our lives in his liberating service), social (seeking to penetrate society
with his values), political (refusing to idolize any human institution) and global (being jealous for the honour and glory of his name as we make disciples among all nations).

--From "The Contemporary Christian" (Leicester and Downers Grove: IVP, 1992), p. 98.

Malaysia: Moving Towards a 2-Party System?

Excerpt from an article from Catholic Asian News: The Next Elections

The period leading up to the next general election is riddled with uncertainty. The BN will be constantly challenged by the opposition and it will not stand back and sit idly in the face of these challenges. There will be reactions and counter reactions. Other forces will try to fill some of the power vacuum left open by the BN and the opposition, including NGOs as well as the various palaces, at the state and national levels.

As Christians, we have a role to play in shaping the national discourse of what we want our country to look like moving forward. Every person has their role to play in this discourse. Some have fewer responsibilities - such as carrying out the minimal act of registering to vote and then voting come election time.

Others have slightly more - perhaps being relatively well informed about the issues of the day and then being responsible opinion shapers among friends and families. And yet others may be more directly involved in the process as activists in NGOs and other social and religious organisations, or as community leaders, or as journalists, or as pastors and church leaders, or as members of political parties, or perhaps as political leaders at the state or national levels.

In these exciting times of defining what is possible, all we can ask for is to approach our responsibilities with prayer, discernment and diligence. The rest, we place in the hands of God Almighty.

Ong Kian Ming is a PhD Candidate in political science at Duke University. He can be reached at

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Christianity In The 21st Century Seminar

Rev. Dr Samuel Ling ( 林慈信牧師) will be doing these seminars in Malaysia. He is president of China Horizon (, a Reformed teaching ministry in theology and apologetics. His passion is in teaching doctrine; Biblical theology; church history; Cornelius Van Til’s apologetics; Puritanism; and biblical (nouthetic) counseling. Rev. Stephen Tong calls him “the most consistent Reformed thinker in the Chinese community.” Currently he and China Horizon conduct regular courses in Washington DC, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

林慈信牧師是中華展望的總幹事 ( ,中華展望是一個改革宗神學與護教學的教導事工。林牧師致力傳授改革宗教義、聖經神學、教會歷史、范泰爾的護教學、清教徒神學、與(亞當斯的)聖經輔導學;被唐崇榮牧師譽為「華人教會最貫徹改革宗(歸正)的思想家」。目前固定在華盛頓,洛杉磯,香港,檳城,吉隆坡,與新加坡等地舉辦神學課程。

Rev. Ling received his A.B. from the University of Pennsylvania; the M.Div. and Th.M. from Westminster Theological Seminary; and Ph.D. in history (church history) from Temple University. His doctoral dissertation dealt with the interaction of the church with the Anti-Christian Movement among China’s intellectuals. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, and did church planting in New York City, and served as senior pastor of a historic Chinese church in Chicago.


He is professor of historical and systematic theology at International Theological Seminary under Dr. Joseph Tong, and has lectured in Westminster, Covenant, Regent, Alliance, Wheaton, Fuller, and other seminaries in Asia and North America. He is author of 500 articles and edited a number of books. He is the founder of ChinaSource, a research-based catalyst for partnership in Christian service. Since 1997, he and his family live in Los Angeles.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Discover Your Calling

Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-27 (Based on Gordon Smith's Courage and Calling and Yoke Yeow's idea with Incredibly Called) Delivered at RipTreat 2009

If you can be a superhero, who would you want to be? Why do you want his or her super powers?

Do you remember the movie The Incredibles? Or Kungfu Panda? Or Ratatouille? The heroes of each story have a deep desire in their hearts to be superheroes, a chef (Remy the Rat) or kungfu master (Po The Panda), they face huge internal and external problems that prevent them for realizing their dreams and we cheer them on when we see how they finally overcome these barriers to be what they were meant to be!

Each and every one of us is given special talents, skills, abilities and a calling from God. Not all of us have the same spiritual gift. Why? It’s supposed to be like a body when we mutually build up and bless each other with the diverse gifts we have been given. Since we cannot be experts in everything, we need each other…

First and foremost, God calls us to Himself, to a personal Father-child relationship with Him. He loves us unconditionally, there is where our self-worth lies. Secondly, He has also equipped us with abilities and called us to fulfil a purpose, mission and destiny in life.

What happens when we don’t exercise our gifts or we don’t know what God has called us to do with our lives? When people don’t discover what God had made them to be, they very often experience these symptoms

Boredom: Mr Incredible is super-strong and loves to fight crime and save people from trouble. But when he was forced to retire by the law, he earns a living filing claims in an insurance company. He’s cramped in a tin can and sneaks out at night to play super hero.

Mischief: Do you remember Dash? Wonder-boy capable of supersonic speeds but to hide his superpowers, he can’t show his true colors in school. So he must pretend to lose races in school to conceal his abilities. In frustration, he expresses his talent by putting thumb tacks teacher's butt. When people can’t express their abilities in positive, productive ways, these gifts can have a dark side.

Inferiority Complex: Violet the shy, insecure girl whose gift of invisibility helps her fade ever more into the background. When you don’t find your call or purpose in life, you may eventually believe you are good for nothing. There is no meaning or rhyme in life… you get overwhelmed with self pity, inferiority and insecurity.

Mismatch of work: I would also like to suggest to you that because many people do not discover the true superpowers, they choose a certain job or study certain subjects because everybody else is doing it, it makes lots of money or due to society expectation or because it is easier road to take. We dun stop and ask:

Is this “who I am”? Is this what God has called me to do?

Disclaimer: If you are in secondary school, this is probably not the time for you to make firm decisions on what you’d be doing for the rest of your life. So don’t go home and tell your parents “I’m not going to school anymore because I wanna go US and be American Idol”. It is a lifelong journey. You won’t find out the entire purpose of your life tonight. At your age, I want to encourage you to try new things, dun limit your ministry experience and continuously learn more about you like/dislike but it’s never too early to start thinking about these things.

What I like about movies like Kungfu Panda, Incredibles or Ratatouille is not so much the silly humor or kick-butt action, what satisfies us most is when they find the joy of finally doing what they were made to do. Like when Remy the rat creates delicious dishes instead of scavenging leftovers or when Po the Panda finally defeats the bad guy by being himself and he finds out that the secret of the dragon scroll is “There is no secret!” we cheer for these heroes.

What are you spiritual gifts? Freely you have received, freely give. A Hero is waiting to be set free in us. Only One Life To Live. Don’t Waste It.

But how do we find out what is God’s will for us? What are our spiritual gifts? Must we hear audible voices from heaven before we know it? Is there a secret spiritual formula to finding God's call? The secret of the dragon scroll is "there is no secret".

It’s not something overly difficult or mysterious. In fact, after this we will do a little survey together to help you find out more about your spiritual gifts. Would you like to find out? (Disclaimer: The purpose is to get you started on discovery not absolute answers because unless you have tried some of these ministry areas, how do you know you don’t like it or good at it? The answers will change as you explore and learn more)

Here are FIVE Questions to help us find our Life Calling

1) What do you feel joy doing? What is my deepest desire or passion?

It doesn’t mean that just because you enjoy playing Counterstrike, you are called to be a gamer. But since God put the body together, you will feel fulfilled (Yes, I feel God’s pleasure when I run, sing, write, play the guitar, serve the weak etc) when functioning in the proper area. There will be a sense of purpose, like jigsaw puzzles that fit. Look out for the sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, pleasure when you exercise a gift/ministry.

2) What are you good at doing? What are my abilities, skills, spiritual gifts, mutant powers?

Run through some of the gifts and talents in the spiritual gift survey. It's not an exhaustive list. Maybe you think “Oh, I’m good at none of these things.” But again: “Belum cuba belum tahu”.

Risks: When people ask you to serve as ushers, “Oh no, because I don’t have that gift”. You begin to avoid evangelism or prayer. And at this time, none of us have enough life experience to really know what gifts you have, Some people would rather die than say, sing in public, but when they are given training and opportunity they may turn out to be gifted singers. So explore new opportunities. Get involved in different church ministries to meet the needs of some real people, expose yourself to the needs around and see if God puts a burden in your heart.

3) What do you feel are the biggest needs of the people around you?

When you look at the world around you, what are the things that make you sad or lose sleep? Are you burdened by the suffering of poor people? Are you burdened to see that people are lost without the gospel? Do you feel angry when there is injustice or cruelty? Of course, all Christians should feel such burdens in some degree. But it’s also true that some people feel more strongly about some areas than others. And it’s okay, dun fight over it and accept that God calls people differently while learn from others. Evangelism (Alpha Course) versus Social Justice? (Angsana) Don’t insist others to be like you.

Have you felt like: “Why isn’t somebody doing something about it?” Maybe you should.

4) What is your unique personality?

God has wired each of us differently, in a unique way like snowflakes. There is no “right” personality. Our individual temperament is unique to us as our fingerprint. John Calvin once said: You cannot know God unless you know yourself. You cannot know yourself unless you know God.

- Extroverts are energized by being with people or enjoy being the center of attention. Introverts tend to be content and energized being alone, and avoid attention when in a crowd. Which is more true to who you are?

- How do you process information? Am I more inclined to trust clear, certain and concrete facts (sensate) or more inclined to trust intuition, gut feeling and imagine possibilities (intuitive)?

- Do you make decisions depending on logic/analysis or personal relationship/feeling? Thinker or feeler?

- Am I more inclined to live with order, structure and routine or do I prefer going through life with more variety, spontaneous changes? Different personality may clash in a meeting. Derive fulfillment from finishing a task or find more joy in the process?

Again, your calling is not determined by one factor. For example: “Unless you are an outgoing extrovert, you cannot be a leader” – too simplistic. There are different leadership styles, a quiet person can lead effectively also.

5) What do others in school, family, circle of friends, church community say about me?

Since spiritual gifts are designed to benefit others (edify each other), you should see positive results as you exercise these gifts. But results take time so don’t give up too quickly, give it a fair try. Sometimes it’s hard to be brutally honest with ourselves – we can be either too hard on ourselves or unable to see our own shortcomings. So we need other brothers and sisters in Christ to help us recognize and confirm our gifting. Cannot ‘syok sendiri!!’ And as a youth group, be on the lookout and encourage those who do well, affirm them to continue using their gifts, be generous in giving honest feedback and constructive suggestions or evaluations.

But you can’t consider this question alone: Sometimes even people who mean well may misunderstand us, may be biased and their feedback cannot be absolute. We need to weigh opinions of others carefully as well. Usually some truth, some exaggerations…

So there you have it: Five Questions to help you discover your calling in life
What do you feel joy doing? What are you good at doing? What do you feel are the biggest needs of the people around you? What is your unique personality?

After doing the survey:
Beware of ‘gliding on our gifts’. Sometimes our relationship with God is not that healthy or our hearts are not right (bear grudges or hatred on others) but we can still do well in our ‘ministry’ because we are gifted in it and nobody notices. Your gift can never replace what goes on inside your heart. “Lord! Lord! Look at what we have done for you” But I never knew you. (Matt 7:21) There are people who are not so gifted but because their character is godly and their relationship with God is close, people are blessed and sense the aroma of Christ in their lives.

Our gift, ability or ministry is not an extension of ourselves. It is not where your source of self-worth. Unless you see this, you’d be driven or scared, too timid or too aggressive.

If we measure our self-worth by our achievements and abilities, we will either burn out (“I must be the best otherwise I’m a failure”) or give up (“What’s the point? I’d never be good enuff”).

But the good news is Christ “loves us more than we ever dare imagine even though we are more sinful than we’d ever know”! How does that change the way you measure how valuable you are and how you use gifts? Humble boldness…

I hope this message gets you to start thinking over the next few days we are together. What is the kind of person God has called me to be? What are the needs around me that I could me in Jesus name? What gifts have he given me to bless others and glorify God?

Remember Spiderman movie: With great powers come great responsibility! Let us pray.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Consistent and Sensitive Translations of “Allah”

To the Editor of the Sun,

Christians harbor the hope that Muslims who express their views on the ‘Allah’ issue will focus on the academic issues rather than rely on emotional rhetoric. That we now have a contribution to the ‘Allah’ controversy from the Vice-Chancellor of USM, Tan Sri Professor Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, is indeed most welcome. However, with due respect to the learned professor, I beg to differ with his views for the following reasons:

First, Prof. Dzulkifli violates Aristotle’s dictum that one should critique a text on its own terms and that benefit of doubt should be extended to the text. He does so when he rejects the Christian use of the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God simply because he considers Christian usage insensitive and shows no regard for Muslim teaching about the Quranic Tauhidic concept. His judgment begs the question. But why should people of other faiths be dictated by an alien text (in this case, the Quran) in their use of their Holy Scriptures? It is surely an inept academic exercise to impose Islamic teachings onto the Bible or to impose Christian teachings onto the Quran.

Second, Dzulkifli’s stricture is indefensible in the light of history. Indeed, if legitimacy is to be accorded to the first user of the word ‘Alah’, then Muslims should not be allowed to call their God ‘Allah’. After all, the pre-Islamic Arabs and speakers of Arabic cognate languages (like Syriac and Nabatean) had already been calling their God ‘Allah’ (with equivalent cognates), and the Muslims who came later used the term ‘Allah’ in a sense that deviates from its historical usage.

Third, Dzulkifli’s stricture is irrelevant. Christians have never pretended that the Bible is an Islamic book. Although Christians and Muslims both believe in the same Creator God, nevertheless they have different understandings of his attributes and his gift of salvation.

Dzulkifli’s criticisms fail to carry weight because he has not undertaken both a diachronic and synchronic analysis of lexical terms used in the original texts. Without this prior exercise he has no grounds to justify why he cannot accept certain translations of Biblical terms, which are based on objective principles of linguistics.

Dzulkifli’s criticism of how Christians use the word ‘Tuhan’ and ‘Allah’ in describing ‘Lord’ and ‘God’ shows that he has prejudged how Christians should translate their Scriptures even though he displays no knowledge of the original Hebrew and Greek languages. Biblical translators chose the word ‘Allah’ to translate the word ‘God’ since the word was originally used in Arabic as a generic designation for God. But for Christians this God has specifically revealed himself as ‘Yahweh’ (YHWH), a term that emphasizes his eternal existence and unlimited power when used in the original context. The semantic range of the word ‘Lord’ allowed Jews and Christians to apply the word Kurios (Lord) to Yahweh in the 3rd century BC Greek translation of the Bible, called the Septuagint. A careful reading of the Malay Bible will show that the translator consistently translated ‘God’ as ‘Allah’ and ‘Lord’ as Tuhan. It is interesting to note that the Quran also uses two words ‘Allah’ and ‘Rabb’ to describe God as ‘Allah’ and ‘Lord’.

There is then a semantic overlap and yet difference between ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ in the Hebrew and Greek languages. For Christians both terms may apply to the Creator God and to Jesus Christ on account of the Christian belief that Jesus is God’s manifestation for salvation of mankind (Titus 2:13). It is only natural that Christians, who from the very beginning understood Jesus as God, also apply the term Kurios (Lord) to Jesus. Thus Jesus is referred to as ‘My Lord and My God!’ (John 20:28) – rendered in Bahasa Malaysia as Tomas menjawab Dia: “Ya Tuhanku dan Allahku!”

Dzulkifli’s manifest confusion in his reading or rather misreading of the Bahasa Bible could easily be avoided if he just follows Aristotle’s dictum and attempts an internally coherent reading of the text on its own terms. In the light of this fundamental error, Dzulkifli’s gripe about how other names should be used are minor issues – like Jerusalem/Yerusalem (which is actually a small matter of phonetics), Torah/Taurat Musa/Hukum Musa or Abraham/Ibrahim (which is a matter of transliteration and there are no absolute rules governing how languages are transliterated from one language to another). It is not surprising that Dzulkifli’s criticism of Christian translation of the Bible strayed into these secondary issues since he violates the basic dictum of literary and linguistic criticism right from the start.

It becomes evident that so long as Muslims like Dzulkifli insist that the meaning of words be strictly restricted to a historically contingent usage found in one particular text (the Quran), they will fail to understand, much less empathize or accept that people of other faiths have as much right to address their God as they see fit. Indeed, at best, Dzulkifli comes across as only seeking to cast aspersions that question the competence of Christians to translate and read their very own Holy texts in their mother tongues. At worse, his discussion amounts to an attempt at linguistic imperialism.

Dr. Ng Kam Weng
Kairos Research Centre

The Sun, Malaysia
Updated: 10:20AM Wed, 11 Mar 2009

Inconsistent, insensitive translations of ‘Allah’
Dzulkifli Abdul Razak

THE use of the term "Allah" has captured the attention of the media again. Of late, even a newspaper from down south carried a commentary on the issue. The slant is usually political, and not religious, and does not throw any new light on the issue. It also does not appeal to the intellect; instead, it seems to border more on emotions that further confuse the issue.
To all Muslims the term "Allah" is laden with the concept of Tauhid – that Allah is "the One and Only" as defined in the Quranic language, which happens to be Arabic. Allah cannot be understood without this concept of his oneness. Any attempt to do so will amount to a vulgarism of sort, and an affront to Muslims.

Moving forward, let us briefly try and understand the reasons for Muslim misgivings by using the Bahasa Indonesia version which is translated from the English New King James Version and authorised by Konperensi Waligerja Indonesia (Edition, 2004). Let us randomly take The Gospel according to Luke, translated as Injil Lukas, to briefly illustrate the point.

In Luke, "God" is generally substituted by "Allah", whereas "Tuhan" is commonly used to substitute "the Lord". Note the article "the" applies to "Tuhan," but not to "Allah". Hence, where there is "the Lord God" in the English version, it becomes "Tuhan Allah". "The Lord their God" becomes "Tuhan, Allah mereka". Note the use of a comma!

On some occasions though, "God" is also translated as "Tuhan", though "God" in this example does not carry the article "the" as in "the Lord". So does it mean there is a time when "God" is not "Allah"? Or that "Tuhan" is "Allah" after all?

Yet, on other occasions, "Allah" is used as substitute for "the LESUS." But then, "the LESUS your God" is rendered as "Tuhan, Allahmu" – note again the comma!

Just from these few random examples, one can already sense the complexity and confusion in the use of "Allah" in the translated version.

To make matters even more confusing, the biblical name "Mary" is rendered as "Maria" – when the Quranic equivalent would have been "Maryam"; And "John" as "Yohanes" instead of "Yahaya." Or for that matter "Gabriel" is not even translated but kept as it is. The Quranic "Jibrail" as an equivalent is not even considered! How about "Jesus" himself? Why is this rendered as "Yesus", rather than "Isa"? In the Quran both are the son of Mary or Maryam.

If the worry is that the use of the word "Isa" in the Quran is limited only to him being the son of man and not of Allah; unlike what is understood for the biblical "Jesus" – then should not the same consideration and sensitivity for Muslim feeling be shown when "Allah" is used in the translation, without any concern for the Quranic Tauhidic concept. This inconsistency, indifference and arrogance is rather obvious when it comes to the biblical "the Son of God" and the use of "Anak Allah" as an equivalent in the translation – something which is conceptually outright not acceptable to Muslims. In fact, it tantamounts to the denial of the concept of "Allah" as explained in the Quran, Surah Al-Ikhlas 112: 3 that "He begets not, nor was He begotten. And there is none co-equal or comparable to Him".

The consequence of this translation will be that Muslims will be confronted with blasphemous ideas that Allah has a son; that Allah’s son was born in the manger; that Allah’s son was crucified; that Allah’s son died for all of us. This may have public order implications under section 298 of the Malaysian Penal Code which forbids the wounding of religious feelings.

As it stands, the use of "Allah" the way it is can only arouse suspicions as to why an Arabic word is used for an Indonesia-Malay translation of the Gospel. Why not use the Hebrew or Armenia equivalents, instead?

To add on to this suspicion is why there is no insistence that examples in the fore-mentioned names be substituted with the Arabic equivalent, including places like "Jerusalem" which is substituted by "Yerusalem" which is not the name in Arabic either.

On the contrary, there are biblical names that are readily rendered to the equivalent Arabic in the translation. The examples are numerous, for instance: David as Daud; Zacharias as Zakharia; Aaron as Harun; Joseph as Yusuf; Moses as Musa; law of Moses as Taurat Musa (though, more appropriately it should have been "hukum Musa", since there is the specific term

"Torah" for "Taurat").

The final straw is when the patriarch "Abraham" who is the fountain head for Judaism, Christianity and Islam is also not rendered to Arabic "Ibrahim" – but left as "Abraham". Here, the inconsistencies, inaccuracies and insensitivities in the use and misuse of the word "Allah" become even clearer. And this must be the concern of all.

Tan Sri Professor Dzulkifli Abdul Razak is Vice-Chancellor of USM

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Online Petition: The Use of the Word "Allah"

To: Prime Minister Of Malaysia


Date :4th.March.2009


Yang Amat Berhormat,

WE,the concerned citizens of Sabah,are steadfast and guided by the belief
in fairness and social justice and the provisions in the Federal
Constitution of Malaysia that allows the freedom of religion of it's
citizens.The word "ALLAH" has always been used by the Christians to refer
to "God" in their publications and preaching without restrictions and
knowledge that Christians in other Muslim countries such as Indonesia and
Arabia,etc without any problem and the belief in the universality of the
word "ALLAH".

WE, humbly appeal to the conscience and the wisdom of YAB to reconsider
the decision of the Home Ministry so that we can continue to belief in
the fairness of the government.

WE , the concerned citizens of Sabah Malaysia , humbly appeal that the
Christians be allowed to use the word "ALLAH" in Bahasa Malaysia to refer
to "GOD" in English

The Undersigned

PS: Forward this petition to people you know

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Thinking Things Through in a Theological Safe Space

Here are some photos from the "God and Science Forum" on 21 Feb 2009. You may check out Ron's sermon on Sunday on "Renewal Of Your Mind". Read more about his ministry here

Thinking Things Through in a Theological Safe Space

ACT is a non-profit organization based in New York City. We provide a climate of inquiry within a sanctuary of doubt that we call a theological safe-space (TSS) for people of good will to encounter the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What Do We Do

1. We address the challenges posed by the sciences and religious pluralism: (1) the role of the sciences to make sense of reality (theological reflection and scientific discovery share a common source in divine disclosure) and (2) its relationship to other religions.

2. We promote interdisciplinary research for a transformative renewal of the mind, to make the message of the Bible relevant to the urgent questions of the day. We consider how the sciences, history, the arts, philosophy and ethics (SHAPE) have influenced our interpretation of the biblical texts as we engage the world of commerce, academia, media, politics and sports (CAMPS) and formulate a worldview by thinking things through, theologically.

3. We develop globally relevant and conceptually holistic discipleship programs. In the sciences, we inquire into methodologies to distinguish science from scientism and evolution from evolutionism. In history, we teach global, rather than Eurocentric Christianity. In the arts, we teach their origins, redemptive power, and nexus to worship. In philosophy, we scrutinize the justification for atheism and agnosticism. In ethics, consider the divine moral command and its implications. In biblical theology, we teach a method of interpretation that engages other religious convictions and scientific inferences while remaining faithful to the confessional integrity of the Bible as a trustworthy, divinely inspired writing of fallible, human effort.

We rebuild the foundations of the Christian Faith first by tearing down weak foundations and rebuilding them. In Ecclesiastes 3:3 - [There is] a time to tear down and a time to build. Sometimes, we base our beliefs on wrong assumptions. We do not notice this until we come face to face with questions our skeptical friends might ask us.

We seek to be a trusted resource for Christian organizations attempting to understand the roles of the natural sciences and philosophy in their ministries.

Let us earn your trust - to be the adoptive authority of choice for both believer or skeptic seeking an informed but humble approach to the human understanding of divine reality.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What Is Apologetic?

1 Peter 3:15-16 “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

This message was given to MMU Cuberjaya CF last nite. Wanna acknowledge materials from Stand To Reason. Imagine if the President of MMU comes into this CF meeting and says, “I need someone to represent CF and tell me more about what you are and what you do. Who would you send?” Would you send one of these guys to represent the CF? Why? (Mystery prize)

We don’t want our representatives to be rude, blur, offensive, obnoxious, fumbling clowns basically because they reflect badly on us.

Whether we know it or not, we are already representatives for Christ in our family, in our classroom, amongst our friends… We are ambassadors of Christ. We represent the King and His Kingdom in a fallen world to share the good news and show good works. People will hear our words and see our behavior and conclude, “Oh he’s a follower of Jesus so His Master must be like that also”. As ambassadors for Christ we either attract people to see God or distract people from seeing God. I’m not saying you have to be perfect, but I think we need to be real (honest).

The topic today is “Apologetics” – it doesn’t mean saying sorry or apologize all the time. It doesn’t mean trying to defend God because God doesn’t need our puny defense, thank you very much. No, Apologetics is the art of giving our friends (seekers or critics) a reason for the hope we have in Christ. It is an important part of being an ambassador for Christ in MMU. So what does it do? Why should I learn to give a reason for our faith?

Firstly, it helps us to remove some obstacles that prevent people from coming to faith (“I think Christians are so nice but how can you believe that Jesus is the only way? Isn’t that narrow minded?”

Apologetic helps us to compare and evaluate other religious claims. Especially in Malaysia where we live in a multi-religious society, there are many ways of answering the big questions in life – Where do we come from? Who am I? Why on earth am I here for? Where am I going? These are big questions that every thinking person asks. Apologetic helps us to find good answers for our origin, identity, meaning in life and destiny after we die…

It may also helps us give our friends positive clues or evidences for why we believe God exists, Jesus resurrected and the Bible is God’s word. Some people are Christians because it makes them happy, it looks cool, the music sounds great, because a boy or girl in CF is cute and so on. But it won’t last. The kind of faith that endures and transforms is faith that is based on conviction… not because it is feels cool, but because it is true… And because it is true, it radically changes our lives and priorities… Apostle Peter says: In your heart set apart Christ as Lord. He’s Lord of all or not Lord at all.

Some may ask, “If there are reasons or evidence, where is the room for faith? If I already have faith, why need reasons?” But biblical faith is not wishful thinking, but based on facts. God invites us to “Come let us reason together” in the book of Isaiah. In New Testament, we find that the apostle Paul reasoned with people in the synagogues and some of them are persuaded.

Although faith is beyond reason, it is not against reason. It is not blind faith or intellectual suicide. Faith involves knowledge (objective: This chair is strong enough to support me), agreement (Yes, it can support me) and personal trust or choice/commitment (subjective).

Ok, so how do we do it?

Here are three key characteristics of a good ambassador for Christ. We need to have
Knowledge (informed mind), Character (attractive, winsome manner) and Wisdom (artful method)

A) Informed mind: The Bible passage we read just now tells us to be ready, be prepared to give us an answer or reason for our faith. To do that, we obviously need to know something about what we really believe and why we believe the things we believe.

For example, you may play Counterstrike with your friends one day and he asks, “Eh, what is the meaning in life, ar? Bible got answer or not?” How would you answer? If you don’t know, never mind, go home, look it up in books, ask your pastor, do some research and get back to him. But if he asks same question 2-3 times, and your answer is always “I dunno” then it just shows that this is not important even to you so why should I bother?

The best part is this: Equipping yourself with biblical truth is not as hard as you may think. There are so many excellent and free resources available online these days and with Google, it is at your finger tips. (You are IT savvy people, see below). So be transformed by the renewal of your mind. The bible didn’t say be transformed by the removal of your mind. If not, you’d become conformed to the patterns of this world. Do you know how do bank workers recognize counterfeit notes?

B) Winsome Character: Peter says “But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”

Do you know of people who win arguments and lose the soul? They can debate like champions but offend everybody with a proud, know-it-all attitude. People are just put off. But good ambassadors for Christ are humble, gentle or respectable to others. They speak the truth but they speak the truth in LOVE. There is a patient, attractive and winsome character because the ultimate apologetics is love.

When people see in our lives compassion for the weak and needy, show forgiveness to those who persecute and slander us, it will raise profound questions for our friends “Why are they so different?”

Be sensitive to the real concern behind the question. Sometimes when people ask “How can God be fair when there is so much suffering in the world?” they may or may not want a philosophical answer that God gave us freewill or has a greater purpose for suffering. There may be underlying reason behind the question: Because they are suffering personally and the question is really asking for our understanding, presence and practical help. Be a good listener and try to find out the question behind the question.

And when people don’t agree with us, relek la… No need to be defensive or angry because only the Holy Spirit could touch a person’s heart to believe, it is not up to how good we are in debating. We are called to be witnesses, not judges of people’s hearts. Allow room for God to work in them. Sometimes all we are called to do is to plant a seed and that’s ok… just leave him with something to ponder and think about… don’t feel pressured that you must get to the sinner’s prayer every single time… bcos somewhere down the road another person will water it… another person will plow the ground… another person will reap… It’s a community project, dun be pressured to do everything

C) Artful Method: Sometimes we may have the facts, and our motive is good (we mean well) but we don’t say it in a way that people can understand. Or we say it in a way that people easily misunderstands. There is a saying: “It is not what you say, but HOW you say it that makes or breaks the case”.

This is not just about packaging or tricks. It is about effective communication. The gospel message is eternal, unchanging but the ambassador learns how to adjust his method depending on the person/situation so the gospel is heard in clear and compelling way. For example, for some people who are ready, you can flip out the Four Spiritual Laws or a tract and share with them the gospel. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life… But other people turn off the moment they see a tract, looks like you are trying to sell them something, so you may want to change your method a bit…

And we need to be careful of Christian jargons or lingo that we use. It makes perfect sense to believers but doesn’t mean anything or worse, it means the wrong thing to someone who is not a believer. Like, “Jesus is the answer!” But what is the question? “You need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb”? Huh? Sounds scary… “You need to be justified and sanctified before you can be glorified”. Is there a way to rephrase that in a lingo your friends understand?

Last but not least, don’t be an answering machine. Sometimes we think we must always be the one giving all the answers. But if you look at Jesus, He very often answers a question with another question.

Question: Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
Response: Why do you call me good?

Question: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?
Response: Whose picture is on the coin?

Question: On what ground shall divorce be permitted?
Response: What did Moses command you?

Question: By what authority do you do these things?
Response: Answer me this – by what authority did John the Baptist do what he did?

Questions and more questions… But why did Jesus do that? Is it because he doesn’t know the answer? No. Questions are very powerful…

Because question opens up hidden assumptions: “I can’t believe in Jesus without being 100% sure first” So I asked, “But what decision have you made in life based on 100% certainty? Unreasonable criteria”

Questions can expose the heart issues or logical problems in a person’s views
“There is no truth.” “Really? Is that true? Is that absolutely true?”
“You can’t be sure of anything when it comes to God”. “Are you sure about that?”

Questions help us gather more information and clarify someone’s beliefs (ie Hinduism). Then, if he is polite, you get to share your own views later. Conversation: Not so preachy.

Questions get you out of the hot seat and reverse the burden of proof.
“There is no God.” “What do you mean by ‘God’?”
All religions are basically the same.” “In what way are religions all basically the same”?

Learn the right answers but also learn to ask right questions.

Final thought: The Gospel is offensive enough because it deals with idols/sins of people. Don’t add any more offense to it. But we dare not water down the Gospel.

Monday, March 02, 2009

‘Allah’ is allowed for non-Muslims, says Nik Aziz

On Saturday night I had a lengthy YM conversation with an online Muslim friend whom I look forward to meet one day (insya Allah)... Began to understand more of the theological dilemma that many Muslims struggle with on this issue (konsep ketuhanan in both religions are different so using the same term 'Allah' is seen as confusing). Despite the debate that rages, this issue should be seen as 'khilaf' or 'adiaphora' (in christian parlance)

I shared how Christians and Muslims have called God "Allah" in Arab countries, in East Malaysia for a long time. Even in Indonesia. There doesn't seem to be any confusion. It boils down to education perhaps.

Again, Tok Guru showed his wisdom and statemanship in making a clear stand on this issue and the 'bumiputra' issue in the midst of much polarising politics that have been going on.

KOTA BHARU, March 1 – Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, the Pas spiritual leader and one of the country’s most respected Muslim leaders, said today that non-Muslims should be allowed to use the word “Allah.”

But he said it was up to the federal government to decide whether to allow its use by non-Muslims.

“I do not want to interfere in this matter. Let the federal government decide,” he was quoted as saying by the national news agency Bernama in Kota Baru today.

The Pas leader was responding to the intense debate over the Catholic newspaper Herald’s law suit against the federal government’s decision to ban the use of the word “Allah” in its publication.

Yesterday, the Home Ministry rescinded a government gazette issued a day earlier which allowed the conditional use of the word in Christian publications.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said a mistake had been made and the government’s ban remained in force unless the courts decide otherwise.

The government had recently ordered a ban on the Herald's Malay edition until the court makes its decision, as part of conditions for it to be allowed to continue publishing in English, Chinese and Tamil.

Muslim groups have been up in arms over the Catholic newspaper’s use of the word “Allah” and were particularly upset when the ban was rescinded on Friday.

These Muslim groups have argued that allowing Christians to use the word “Allah” would cause confusion among Muslims.

They are also suspicious about the intent of Christians, with some accusing churches of trying to use the word “Allah” to convert Muslims.

However, the Catholic Church says the word “Allah” is being used by its members, especially those in Sabah and Sarawak, who are fluent only in the national language.

They also contend that “Allah” is the accurate translation for the word “God” as opposed to “Tuhan” which they use to mean “Lord.”

The church has also pointed to the fact that the word “Allah” is also used by Christians in the Middle East and in Indonesia.

Scientists’ stem cell breakthrough ends ethical dilemma

From MalaysianInsider

EDINBURGH, March 2 — Scientists have found a way to make an almost limitless supply of stem cells that could safely be used in patients while avoiding the ethical dilemma of destroying embryos.

In a breakthrough that could have huge implications, British and Canadian scientists have found a way of reprogramming skin cells taken from adults, effectively winding the clock back on the cells until they were in an embryonic form.

The work has been hailed as a major step forward by scientists and welcomed by pro-life organisations, who called on researchers to halt other experiments which use stem cells collected from embryos made at IVF clinics.

Sir Ian Wilmut, who led the team that cloned Dolly the Sheep and heads the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh University where the work was done, said: “This is a significant step in the right direction. The team has made great progress and combining this work with that of other scientists working on stem cell differentiation, there is hope that the promise of regenerative medicine could soon be met.”

Stem cells have the potential to be turned into any tissue in the body, an ability that has led researchers to believe they could be used to make “spare parts” to replace diseased and damaged organs and treat conditions as diverse as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and spinal cord injury.

Because the cells can be made from a patient’s own skin, they carry the same DNA and so could be used without a risk of being rejected by the immune system.

Scientists showed they could make stem cells from adult cells more than a year ago, but the cells could never be used in patients because the procedure involved injecting viruses that could cause cancer. Overcoming the problem has been a major stumbling block in efforts to make stem cells fulfil their promise of transforming the future of medicine.

Now, scientists at the universities of Edinburgh and Toronto have found a way to achieve the same feat without using viruses, making so-called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell therapies a realistic prospect for the first time.

In 2007, researchers in Japan and America announced they had turned adult skin cells into stem cells by injecting them with a virus carrying four extra genes. Because the virus could accidentally switch on cancer genes, the cells would not be safe enough to use in patients.

In two papers published in the journal Nature, Keisuke Kaji in Edinburgh and Andras Nagy in Toronto, describe how they reprogrammed cells using a safer technique called electroporation. This allowed the scientists to do away with viruses and ferry genes into the cells through pores. Once the genes had done their job, the scientists removed them, leaving the cells healthy and intact.

Tests on stem cells made from human and mouse cells showed they behaved in the same as embryonic stem cells.

“I was very excited when I found stem cell-like cells in my culture dishes. Nobody, including me, thought it was really possible,” said Kaji.

“It is a step towards the practical use of reprogrammed cells in medicine, perhaps even eliminating the need for human embryos as a source of stem cells.”

Nagy said: “We hope that these stem cells will form the basis for treatment for many diseases and conditions that are currently considered incurable. We have found a highly efficient and safe way to create new cells for the human body which avoids the challenge of immune rejection.”

Josephine Quintavalle from the lobby group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, which opposes embryonic stem cell research, said: “What we’ve got here is something that will bring joy to the pro-life movement, a way of obtaining embryonic-type stem cells without having to destroy human embryos.

“There are some scientists who like to hold on to what they’ve got, but I don’t think people are going to waste time on embryonic stem cells any more. Half of Europe is opposed to embryonic stem cell research. Ideally you want something that everybody can use without any problems. This is definitely a very, very promising way forward and a very promising solution to the embryonic stem cell battle.

“It would be some time before the cells could be used in patients,” Wilmut said, because scientists have yet to find reliable ways of making different tissues from stem cells. — The Guardian

Picture courtesy of this website

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Christian Views on Science

What is the science? (excerpts from Scaling the Secular City, JP Moreland)

Realist view: Good scientific theories are rational, close to true description of the world. If it’s true, a theory will have virtues like simplicity, clarity, internal/external consistency, predictive ability, empirical accuracy, guide future research). As science progress, we get a truer picture of the world. (i.e. Karl Popper)

Non-realist view: There is no neutral facts/data. The ‘world’ we observe is itself determined by our theories about the world. Rival theories cannot be compared with each other because there are no theory-neutral criteria. What is rational for one culture is not necessarily so for another culture. Paradigm shifts (i.e. Thomas Kuhn)

Are there limits of science?

“Only what can be tested empirically is true and rational Everything else is just opinion.” But can this statement itself be empirically tested? What kind of experiment can prove that?

(Realist) Science presupposes some philosophical ideas like the laws of logic are true, that numbers exist, that good theory corresponds to the world and existence of mind-independent world (if a tree falls, does it make a sound if nobody hears it?) versus the ‘world’ is just sense images in the brain of perceivers. Point is: Science is possible only under certain philosophical assumptions.

How Does Science And Theology Relate To Each Other? (Five models)

1. Science is for natural realm and Theology is for supernatural realm. The Bible is not a science textbook. If we want to know the chemical makeup of water, that’s the role of science. But science cannot help to settle the question of how sins can be forgiven.

2. Science and theology are different ways of explaining a phenomenon – science focuses on the how and what, theology focuses on who and why.

3. Theology as foundation for science: The same personal Creator who created the world also created our sensory and rational faculties so it’s reasonable there is correspondence between them. But it’s probably more accurate to say that science owes its existence to philosophy. At least, Christian theology is consistent with presuppositions of science.

4. Science sets limits on Theology. Theology can do its work only after consulting science, not vice versa. For example, if science contradicts theology, it trumps everything. But if Bible is God’s revelation, then we need to be cautious of this option.

How do we respond when there are apparent conflicts? Is our interpretation right? Is our science sound? All truth is God’s truth.

5. Both are interacting approaches to the same reality. (5 is compatible with 1, 2, 3) Theology sometimes implies gaps will exist in scientific accounts where God intervenes. Let the biblical revelation speak for itself i.e. make historical/scientific claims. Is this God-of-the-gaps strategy?

a) It’s debatable whether theology always loses (some theologians predicted that the universe is temporally finite, fossil record would show gaps, anthropologists would find widespread belief in a supreme Being in different cultures etc.

b) And just because most alleged gaps are explainable, it doesn’t follow that all alleged gaps will turn out this way. By definition, a miracle arises against a backdrop where it is rare and unexpected and in the minority.

c) God of the gaps argument can be used against science as well. Most past theories have been replaced or falsified now. Caution against accepting a prevailing theory too readily.

d) What if the gap gets bigger with the advance of science? Spontaneous generation of life theory debunked as we understand more the complexity of microbiological structures.

Picture courtesy of this website



TIME: 8.30PM – 10.30 PM

PROF. DR. SHAD FARUQI University Teknologi MARA; Author of Document of Destiny: The Constitution of the Federation of Malaysia (2008) (Star Publications)

MR. PHILIP TN KOHCo-editor of Sheridan & Groves, The Constitution of Malaysia, 5th Ed (2008)( MLJ) and Co-Counsel in The Tun Mustapha v Tun Adnan Roberts & Dato Pairin Sabah cases in 1985.

DR. NG KAM WENG(Research Director, Kairos Research Centre)

CHAIRMAN: MR. M. SELVEINDRAN(Chairman, Kairos Research Centre)

The unfolding Perak Constitutional Crisis and political events following the March 8 2008 General Elections have raised some difficult challenges to democratic governance in Malaysia. Some of the contentious issues that have gained prominence include the following:

How should the Federal and State Constitutions be interpreted in the context of the present political conflict?What is the scope of the Sultan's discretionary power to appoint or dismiss members of the State Executive Council?

What are the moral and legal issues arising from party hopping?

Resolving the present Constitutional conflict will require an informed judgment that takes into account legal precedents both in Malaysia and in the Commonwealth.

The purpose of this Forum is to provide a legal, political and ethical context to evaluate the plurality of views that have been expressed in the media. The Forum will also provide theological and moral resources for Christians seeking to be responsible citizens who can engage realistically with the moral issues arising from the present political conflict.

Who Should Attend? Pastors, church leaders,youth leaders and all concerned citizens who desire to gain an understanding of the vital issues that impact our nation.


Forthcoming Forums: (1) Global Economic Crisis (2) The Israel-Palestine conflict. Be on the lookout for further details.

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