Saturday, December 23, 2006

Changing the Mind of Missions

A Book Review: “Changing the Mind of Missions: Where Have We Gone Wrong?”

The Christian church is called to be faithful embodiment of the gospel and its courageous agent of proclamation in a fast-changing world. Her missionary task can be nothing less than the restoration of God’s reign over all of life. Unfortunately, the church may become more influenced by the spirit of the age than living victoriously in the redemptive age of the Spirit.

In their book “Changing the Mind of Missions: Where Have We Gone Wrong?” James F. Engel and William A. Dyrness sound the alarm that the modern missionary movement is in crisis. The signs of crisis can be detected in the church’s captivity in modern worldview, steady decline of financial support and withdrawal into monastic ghettos that disengages from the world. There is also widespread skepticism about whether Christian lifestyles are any different from others, prompting what Ron Sider dubbed as ‘the scandal of the evangelical conscience’. Instead of purveying pessimism, the authors see it as an opportunity for rethinking missions with a Kingdom perspective today.

They identify several weaknesses that beset the mission movement today due to the infections of modernity. In particular, the Church has fallen into two errors of omissions in relation to the Great Commission. Firstly, the rhetoric of fundamentalist-liberal conflict in America has resulted in either a “privately engaging, socially irrelevant” faith or a social transformation project that neglects evangelism . Even closer to home in Malaysia, it is far more common to hear sermons on ‘quiet time’, personal piety or ‘the end of the world’ than sermons on social justice, racial integration and the church’s role in Vision 2020.

The second indictment relates to the church making converts who did not graduate to become disciples. As a result of identifying success in terms of quantifiable conversions, pragmatic techniques to disseminate facts and elicit a ‘decision’ reduced disciple-making to ‘managerial missiology’ . Time-consuming, intangible process of spiritual formation like character and holiness took a backseat. While the Scripture does provide summaries like “Believe in Jesus and you shall be saved!” we need to be aware that such statements occur within the context of a sizeable narrative. Not surprisingly, mission objectives are still spelt out in terms of number of tracts distributed and the completion of world evangelization by certain measurable dateline . Fundraising strategies geared accordingly towards highlighting numerical superiority and ‘marketable concerns’ compete for ministry revenues to the extent that legitimate, less popular causes, such as leadership development, suffer.

Engel and Dyrness also propose to revise the missionary model which has as its starting point centers of power and wealth before moving to the periphery of those who were impoverished spiritually and physically . At the beginning of the modern missionary movement, missionaries from North America and Europe were sent to various parts of the world. Their legacy in education, churches and healthcare institution endures till this day. However, the Christian faith is also seen as inextricably linked to dominance and control of the colonial powers. My leftist uncle in China could easily recite how new frontiers were opened to missionaries by the barrel of the gun. Military defeats and humiliating concessions left an indelible mark on the Chinese psyche that Christianity is a ‘Western religion’. Well-meaning missionaries often find themselves caught in the position of “reluctant imperialists” .

Diagnosis without recommending a cure makes for light work. To their credit, Engel and Dyrness prescribe several directions for decisive transformation. They contend that Scriptures make a parody of the ‘center-periphery’ model. The book of Acts recorded how the gospel made its way from Jerusalem, an insignificant backwater of the Roman Empire to the very household of Caesar. Today, churches in the so-called Two-Thirds World have emerged as significant missionary-sending contributors. They are demanding a Paul-Barnabas type of partnership with Western mission agencies rather than a Paul-Timothy partnership . Expertise, resources and knowledge to develop indigenous leaders should be imparted without using them as leverage for control. Vinoth Ramachandran described a cross-cultural, mutual-listening relationship today as indispensable for faithful witness to Jesus Christ.

Part of the ‘Gracious Revolution’ would also involve the abandonment of modernity’s individualistic autonomy and “creation of communities of common people performing uncommon deeds”. Membership in a faith community is not an optional add-on to conversion. Rather than an institution, the church should be characterized more as a community, which Leslie Newbigin called “the hermeneutic of the gospel, its very message and medium” . The full potential of a local church is not realized when its role is seen only in terms of providing resources and sending missionaries. The authors propose a paradigm in which the church takes proactive ownership of specific tasks in mission in partnership with other agencies. As Emil Brunner put it, the church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.

With regards to the ‘public facts versus private values’ assumption of modernity, Engel and Dyrness call for a recovery of the Puritan’s combination of personal piety and an all-encompassing worldview which subjects all aspects of life to God. They argue that social transformation should not be reduced as a consequence of evangelism or merely a component of evangelistic strategy. Social involvement and evangelism should be ‘inseparable elements in Christ’s kingdom that embraces all of creation’. To echo Abraham Kuyper, there is no sphere of life that is not subject to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.

I think the authors’ critique of market-driven approaches to mission is timely. Surely, evangelism should go beyond presenting 4-point propositional facts to elicit decisions that secure a ticket to heaven. The gospel must be “modeled, and then proclaimed”. Our message would be more authentic and appealing if it is incarnate in our communities of faith, foreshadowing the eschatological Kingdom. Genuine fellowship involves mutual self-emptying, servant leadership and deep sharing of lives, not just a feel-good huddle. The authors illustrated these issues through a case study of the fictional mission agency called Global Harvest Mission. I feel that the illustrative effects are not especially necessary in contributing any substantial weight to their case.

True motivation for missions is not just “about selling some spectacular product, eternal life or forgiveness of sins, however wonderful these realities are”. The nature of gospel proclamation as heralding the kingship of Christ has solid historical basis in New Testament studies. I greet the authors’ call for a more holistic approach to mission that encompass the entire creation with a hearty amen. At the same time, I wished that they could have interacted with ‘passion for God’s glory’ as the primary motivation that has driven missionaries of earlier generations.

But it seems that Engel and Dyrness failed to discuss the pitfalls of postmodernism while lauding it as a “decided pendulum swing in a more healthy direction” . They are probably on target when discussing the emerging trend of people inundated by absolute, universalistic claims of rationality and a desire for the spiritual in the context of an authentic community. However, is the openness to experiment with various religions symptomatic of a hunger to discover what Schaeffer called ‘true truth’? Or is it simply the desire to choose any ‘truth’ that fits one’s own personal tastes? After all, if there is no objective truth, why not shop for the latest flavor in the supermarket of religions? Perhaps the authors could have recognized the challenge of mission in a postmodern culture includes affirming unique claims of Christ in the face of relativism.

Personally, I’m less sanguine about postmodernism being “one of the greatest opportunities of history for the Christian faith” . Michael Horton has an interesting analysis that what we call postmodern may in fact be ‘most-modern’ or a more radical form of the same old thing . Such modern features like autonomous individualism, specialized consumerism and suspicion of the past are becoming more rampant. Even if a new epoch is emerging, we should be cautious of its challenges as well.

I never cease to be amazed at how God could work out His redemptive plans in the world despite our faltering and sometimes, counter-productive efforts. The modern missionary movement, despite obvious weaknesses, has made significant strides to overcome geographical and linguistic barriers in bringing the good news of salvation to new frontiers. At its best, the emphasis on fundamental doctrines has always accompanied gospel presentation like personal relationship with Jesus, atonement for sins and justification through faith alone.

At the same time, we need to reexamine and align our approach to missions closer to the biblical model. Engel and Dyrness have rightly identified important areas that need to be urgently addressed. The church’s proclamation, kerygma, must be carried out in the context of authentic community (koinonia) and service to the world (diakonia). However, the antithesis should not be framed as “modernism versus postmodernism” because there is no unmixed blessing this side of heaven. The transforming power of the gospel should be allowed to speak to every culture, especially our own.

It is also crucial that we do not fall for false dichotomy in choosing between relationship over against propositions, story over against propositional doctrines, social action over against evangelism or humility over against convictions. The evangelical content of our message needs to be recovered and unleashed to renew the world, modeling a foretaste of the future Eschaton. If we do not put asunder what God has joined together, the missionary enterprise would have enduring relevance and render better service to God and men.


1. Engel, J.F. and Dyrness, W. A. Changing the Mind of Missions: Where Have We Gone Wrong? Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
2. Sweet, L. (ed.) The Church In Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.
3. Wright, T. What Saint Paul really said: Was Paul of Tarsus the real founder of Christianity? Oxford: Lion Publishing, 1997.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Living The Christian Faith

Course sypnosis: A literary and historical analysis of 1 Corinthians. Certain passages will be selected for exegetical purposes to identify the main theological themes of the book, particularly on 1 Corinthians 8-10, because of its relevance in the Asian context. The importance of applying Paul’s teaching to contemporary Christian living will be highlighted throughout the course.

Issues that plaguing the contemporary church such as sexual immorality, divisions, divorce, women leadership, food offered to idols, etc, were dealt by Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians. One could argue that 1 Corinthians is a timeless epistle to the Christian church in all ages. Dr. Newton, in his capacity as a pastor, missionary and Pauline Scholar, will bring us fresh insight into Paul’s teaching and dealing with the various issues confronting the church today. This course is intended for laity and Christian leaders to think through theologically and gain insights to deal with their church problems. For more information please contact Anne Lim (03-33427482)

Dates & Duration: February 12 - 16; 26 – 28; March 1 – 9, 2007.
Monday – Tuesday ; Thursday - Friday: 7pm - 10pm
Saturday: 9am -12pm
Venue: Malaysia Bible Seminari

Commending The Faith

Course Synopsis:
This course presents a theological and missiological introduction to the defense of the Christian faith in the global and multi-religious context of the 21st century. The subject of apologetics will be discussed from the following six aspects which provide complementary perspectives on the defense of the Christian faith. These are logical, biblical and historical aspects as well as aspects of philosophy of religion, systematic theology and theology of religions. The understanding of these dimensions will enable the students to communicate God’s truth in an evangelistic dialogue as part of fulfilling God’s mission.

In this age of moral and religious relativism, this course provides a biblical and theological framework for the defense and preaching of the Christian Faith. It is intended not only for the theological students, but also for the laity and church leaders. For more information please contact Anne Lim (03-33427482)

Dates & Duration: January 11 - 20, 2007
Monday-Friday: 7pm - 10pm
Saturday: 9am -5 pm
Cost: RM 240 – 3 Units (Graduate)
RM 120 – Audit (Graduate)
1-11, Jalan Dendang 1, Kaw. 16,
Berkeley Town Centre,
41300 Klang, Selangor

Tel: 03-33427482

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tidak, Apathy!

Discordant Dude's post "Can You Hear The Gen Y Sing?" is in the running for the People's Choice Award. Read the other 4 contestant articles and VOTE HERE

"This generation of Malaysian youth seems to chorus with John Mayer’s song Waiting On The World To Change. Inaction apparently permeates this generation - labelled by some as Generation Y - whose presence dominates our education system.

To our dismay, our education system is not in sync with Generation Y and way too often finds itself singing in a different key. While I believe much institutional change is needed to revitalise our schools and universities, I will be for the most part looking at actions that can be undertaken on an individual level in this essay.

Thus, my primary concern is on educating the Generation Y of Malaysian youth. How can educators sing in-tune with Generation-Y students and play a more pivotal role in shaping the minds of tomorrow?

Now, John Mayer’s song on the one hand seems to cry apathy, but on the other hand suggests that this apathy is actually very much misunderstood:

“Me and all my friends, we’re all misunderstood,
They say we can stand for nothing and there’s no way we ever could.
Now we see everything that’s going wrong with the world and those who lead it,
We just feel like we don’t have the means to rise above and beat it.”

My contention is that the apparent inaction of Generation Y is very much misconstrued as a form of apathy, when really it is a despairing sense of powerlessness and disillusionment with the clarion call for change of the good old days. To begin our battle against inaction is to first understand that this inaction is enveloped in powerlessness and not apathy.

Therefore, my role as an educator is chiefly one of empowerment – empowering a generation jaded with political process and public participation which seemed to offer nothing but empty promises.

Generation Y is now shaped by the new digital era, which is characterised by a saturation of information. In the Malaysian context and more precisely within our education system, information is too often imported and not contextualised.

Consequently, the first empowerment strategy is to contextualise information for a generation that longs to make sense of things. Malaysian educators must begin writing their own textbooks, localising the different forms of assessment and adapting pedagogical practices to our immediate context. In other words, we must “Malaysianise” our syllabus and classroom to bring relevance to Generation Y.

Generation Y also has the attributes of being an instant generation that wants everything fast and has an affinity for visual rather than text. In some sense, we can say that Generation Y owns a different language and hence requires a different medium of instruction.

So the next empowerment strategy is to contextualise our medium of instruction by speaking a language that Generation Y can relate with. This may mean a more visual and participative learning environment for a generation that is easily dulled. Malaysian youths are not apathetic – they need educators to help them connect to the issues surrounding them and locate their niche in affecting change. The boomer’s mentality of a grander vision of change just doesn’t work anymore.

In order to connect with Generation-Y students, our education system definitely needs more Generation-Y educators, or at least educators that attempt to understand Generation Y.

Of course, the unattractiveness of the academia to young people and the issue of brain-drain both have a lot of institutional implications. Nonetheless, there is much we can do on the ground level to inculcate a more pleasant environment for Generation-Y educators.

Having to work with boomers, Generation-Y educators may easily be misunderstood and discriminated against for their idiosyncrasies and fragmented approach to teaching, due to their disregard for a one-size-fits-all approach.

My personal experience is one which tells of being exhausted by trivialities such as dressing, hairstyle, physical appearance and unnecessary rules and regulations.

What Generation-Y educators need is a meaningful sense of vocation that perhaps can be sustained through peer support. In this regard, I have been able to initiate such informal support groups which provide a platform for the sharing of struggles and ideas for young educators. In a world where so much is misunderstood, a tad bit of understanding can push this new breed of educators a lot further.

Having said all this, do we now stand at a distance and wait for the world to change or do we rise above the system and beat it where we can? As a Generation-Y educator teaching Generation-Y students, my choice is to learn the tune of our Malaysian youth and change the one of our education system.

Do you hear the Gen Y sing? I do. I even hear their cry.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Doing The Right Thing

Kairos Research Centre is extremely encouraged by the enthusiastic reception of its book Doing the Right Thing: A Practical Guide on Legal Matters for Churches in Malaysia. Sales of the book has been brisk and we are down to the last few copies in our stock.

Perhaps the positive reception of the book is an indication of a growing concern in the mind of the public sparked off by recent trends in legislation that have led to the erosion of religious freedom, and by a series of disputes involving Shariah and Civil law which has generated some tension. These events confirm our conviction that all Malaysians should be well-informed about matters pertaining to law and religion in our society.

Kairos has therefore decided to make available online—with free access—the full text of our legal handbook, Doing the Right Thing. Our hope is that the book will help readers to gain confidence to defend their right to profess, practice and propagate their religion and to remain vigilant in defending their religious rights.

We are aware that laws do go out of date and as such, it may be necessary at some point to undertake a revision of the book to ensure that it remains up-to-date and relevant to our society. We welcome suggestions that will help improve the book. Suggestions may be sent to The revision will be supervised by an Editorial and Revision Committee, members of which will be announced later.

Ng Kam Weng
7 Dec 2006

Excerpt taken from Doing the Right Thing (Kairos Research Centre, 2004)

"Churches in Malaysia operate under a set of laws that imposes restrictions on their freedom to practise their faith. The Christian community has often experienced anxieties about matters pertaining to the law, which can appear complex and intimidating.

Christians feel paralysed since they are unsure if they are doing the right thing. Arising from this, there is an obvious need for Christians to be equipped with a basic knowledge of the law so that they can exercise their Constitutional right to profess, practise and propagate the Christian faith with wisdom and courage that comes from knowing that they have done the right thing in the eyes of the law. It is with this in mind that Kairos Research Centre offers this handbook to the wider Christian public.

This handbook was put together with the help of several Christian lawyers. It represents an initial step in a long-term project to help Christians keep up with laws that change over time. Conceivably, other issues will arise in the future that will need to be addressed. Hence, the handbook will need to be updated from time to time. We welcome suggestions from our readers as to how the book may be improved so that it will become an invaluable resource for the Christian community"

iBridge HeadStart

Friends, especially those who just graduated in the past 4 years. Please forward it to your friends as well.

What is Headstart?
It is a small group that meets together to discuss transition from a student life to the working world. Topics includes dealing with work pressure, office politics, work culture and lifestyle changes, relating to parents, adopting back to church life, true Christian community, being salt and light in the marketplace and finding true friends…

Besides this, probably the most important part of headstart ministry lies in the friendship that is built among the group members. Prayer and accountability are integral part of the group.

Who organizes this group?
This Headstart program is organized by iBridge (, a ministry of Graduates Christian Fellowship (GCF), a sister organization of FES and SU. We are a Inter Denominational ministry.

How often does the group meet?
Once a month for 12 times (1 year). Some groups have a spiritual retreat half way through the program. After 1 year, the group ends… but the friendship definitely carries on. Please note that once the group starts, no new members are allowed into the group.

Who should join?
Those who have graduated less than 4 years ago. So if you have graduated this year or last year or up to 4 years ago, then you should join.

Where does the group meet?
The group meets in a house setting. We start groups all over Malaysia depending if there are any request.

Who will lead the group?
Each group will be led by 2 leaders (facilitators) who are matured and capable to handle the group. Usually, the leaders themselves have been through headstart or some senior people who have been very involved with young graduates ministry.

Past Figures
In the past 5 years, we have started more than 28 groups in Klang Valley, Ipoh, Penang and Melaka. More than 200 members have attended this headstart groups and nearly 60% attended the whole program. If you are planning to join Headstart, please make this a priority.

Do I have to pay to join the group?
No, it is free.

How do I join?
Contact James Daniel at

The Science of Archaeology & the Old Testament

This is a brief explanation of how science helps us understand the Bible. The full ACT seminar in New York will be delivered in 2007. This lecture was delivered at the December 2006 session of Project Timothy at City University of New York’s Hunter College in Manhattan.

Archaeology is the study of antiquity by examining material remains of past human life and activities. It uses modern scientific methods to recover these material remains and infer the meaning of the past, of ancient humans, and his environment. But archaeology is not an exact science – in fact, no science is an exact science. The only exact field of inquiry is mathematics, and that is not strictly speaking, a science.

Biblical archaeology operates at the intersection of theology and history with the tools of science expressed in technology. It shows vividly the importance of science for religion. This interaction is an important element of ‘iron sharpening iron.’ The art and science of biblical archaeology exposes both the science of religion and the religion of science. No religion exists without an appeal to the scientific explanation of reality. By the same token, no science can thrive without faith in even though scientific progress demands the demise of previous achievements.

Old Testament archaeology is the selection of evidence for these regions and periods in which the peoples of the times lived. Why is archaeology important to Old Testament studies? They provide extra-biblical confirmation of many details of biblical history and acts as correctives to many erroneous interpretations. This means that the art and science of biblical exegesis and hermeneutics relies a great deal on inferences we draw from archaeology. Hence, our understanding of the sciences as well as the artistic imagination of the human mind shapes the way we interpret archaeological evidence. This in turn shapes our interpretation of the Bible itself.

Archaeology has rediscovered whole nations, resurrected important peoples, and in a most astonishing manner filled in historical gaps, adding immeasurably to the knowledge of biblical backgrounds.

In Palestine, of the 6000+ archaeological sites that have been surveyed only about 200 have been excavated to some extent, with around 30 sites excavated to any major extent. Of the estimated 1 million documents recovered from OT times, less than 10% have been published. The typical time between recovery and publication is 10 years since almost all archaeologists work only during the summer months, when they are not teaching. The precise locations of many OT places remain in dispute because of uncertainty and changing local names.

3 Points to remember:

1. Archaeology is essential to properly understand the historical context of the Bible. The Bible relates a literary, elitist version of the religion of Israel, whereas archaeology reveals the social context of Israelite religion, including folk religion and counterculture.

2. The Bible, while not a book of history, should be considered a book with elements of history. Despite the ideological slant of the biblical authors, the Bible contains verifiable historical data.

3. Archaeology cannot either prove or disprove the Bible.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Good News for a Bad Day at Work

I suspect you've experienced some really bad days at work-the kind that made you wonder why you even got out of bed that morning. Perhaps it's the loss of a sales opportunity you've been working on or the demise of a critical project. On other occasions, bad days may arise from conflicts with coworkers, bosses and clients. Needless to say, after nearly 20 years in the technology arena, I've had my share of "bad days".

How do we respond in the face of these adversities at work? Does God have a purpose in the midst of our troubled day? Is there really good news for a bad day at the office?

If you find yourself in such a situation, here are a couple of ways, I believe we can view our circumstances and respond biblically -

The first and best thing we can do is to preach the gospel to ourselves relentlessly. However, there are two temptations that may hinder us in this regard.

The first is to think of the gospel as a message for unbelievers that we "graduate" out of when we come to faith in Christ. This kind of thinking in wholly incorrect. The good news of Jesus Christ is a life giving message for all - for those yet to respond in repentance as well as those who have come to faith but continue to live in this fallen world.

Another temptation is to think of the gospel as impractical to matters of our vocation. Many Christians, myself included, may unwittingly treat our work life in the "marketplace" as a gospel free zone. Sure, the gospel may be applicable on in church or even at home...but at work? Yet, these are the very moments that the gospel is most applicable. We need to be reminded that no matter how pressing the problems may be at work, they cannot compare to our greatest problem - the problem of our sin. For this predicament, God has provided a remedy at great cost to Himself. We need to infuse our hearts with gospel centered scriptures that lead us to meditation. Passages like 1 Peter 3:18, 2nd Cor 5:21 are dripping with gospel truth.

The second way to respond in face of a bad day is to consider our adversities with godly purpose in view. I find that adversity is often a way that God reveals His eternal worth to us. It is not the experience of trials that lead to maturity but how we encounter and engage those trials. Trials are designed to remind us of the temporal nature of this life and the eternal worth of knowing Christ. On a recent bad day, I found myself fraught with anxiety yet I sensed the Holy Spirit reminding me of 2 Cor 4:17-18

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

I was also encouraged to desire God and hope in Him from Psalm 73:25 where David writes

"Whom have I in heaven but you. There is nothing on earth that I desire beside you. My heart and my flesh may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

This is good news indeed!

If you want more good news for a bad day, check this out.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Interview with Raj Singh

Raj and Margaret Singh

On the 22-25th of November, I had the privilege of joining a group of great young people making an impact in the Klang Valley, worshipping Jesus through serving the underprivileged and homeless. At the end of it all, I managed to interview the man, Ps. Raj Singh, the big guy behind Soul Survivor Malaysia who also happen to be the Senior Pastor of Christian Life Gospel Centre. Here I include the transcript of our conversation (Note : It is a recollection of the interview. The accuracy of the words and information may be disputed, but the content is almost similar to our conversation).

Read on

"If we truly want to be an authentic church, we need to show to the society that although we are very different in our cultures with Malays, Chinese, Indians and other races, with different social classes, and languages, because of Christ and the power of the Gospel, we are able to pull things together as a caring vibrant community of believers. That is a great testimony to the world. Although we are not able to do this effectively now, we are learning to make the church more welcoming to the poor be it the way we run our services, the language we speak etc. If we are not able to integrate, then how different are we from the society which is so fragmented out there?"

Biblical Preaching

Biblical Preaching : An Introduction

The goal of this one day seminar is to introduce participants to all the key facets of preaching from the bible in the 21st century.
As a result of taking this seminar, participants will know both the theology of biblical preaching and a methodology for doing it. A practical worksheet will also be introduced that will give a suggested template for sermon preparation.

1. A Theology of Preaching.
2. Preaching in a “media” age.
3. The Need for Sermon Organization.
4. The Structure of the Sermon.
5. Interpreting the Bible.
6. Preparing the Sermon
7. Delivering the Sermon

Tan Soo Inn (BDS Singapore, ThM Regent, DMIn Fuller), Founder and Director of Grace@Work (, a ministry committed to seeing lives transformed through friendship and Scripture.

Date: Saturday, January 20th 2007 (Ahwal Muharram)
Time: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Venue: Antioch Center (Home of Bandar Utama Chapel)

28, Jln PJU 3/41,
Sunway Damansara,
47810 Petaling Jaya
Selangor, Malaysia.

We need to know if you are coming so that we can prepare enough materials. (A freewill collection may be taken to help defray costs.)

Bandar Utama Chapel members and friends please inform Lai Nai Kyn, Email:, if you plan to come. Agora folks and everybody else please inform Dave Chong, Email: if you plan to come.

We thank God for those among us whom God has gifted to do expository preaching. But the responsibility for speaking God’s truth lies with all of God’s people. Our goal should be the same as Paul in Romans 15:14 which is addressed to the whole church:

“I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”

This seminar is a serious attempt to help us grow in the competence needed for us to instruct one another.

As we enter the 21st century we need many saints to be able to teach God’s Word. Therefore we encourage as many as possible to take advantage of this learning opportunity.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Our Reason For Being

Dear Friend,

Welcome to Our Reason For Being. It hosts a series of reflections that addresses the question of the meaning of life.

It is undeniable that we all have a deep-seated desire to make sense of life. Existential psychotherapies seek to help us find a meaning in life, a purpose to live for. But we do not seem to be satisfied with having just any reason for living. What is the whole point of being born only to die some time later? Human beings seem to have an innate need for the (not just a) meaning of life. Our heart seems to cry out for the purpose of our transitory existence in this world.

This series of reflections is written in response to this cry for meaning. It is an exposition of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes. You would be amazed how relevant this ancient piece of wisdom literature is to contemporary thinking and living. Ecclesiastes addresses our need for the meaning of life in a rather comprehensive, coherent and compelling manner. I invite you to take the journey to explore with me what this book has to say to us.

I hold a doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from the University of California, Los Angeles. I have been teaching a course on Ecclesiastes for more than ten years. I offer this exposition to you as a fellow pilgrim in search of our reason for being.

At the moment the reflections are offered in installments. The expected date for the upcoming installment is indicated.

The beginning of the journey is just this CLICK away.

Leong Tien Fock

Rethinking Peter Singer

Peter Singer is one of the most popular thinkers/ethicists of our time. I found out that he taught some fantastic stuffs about humane treatment of animals, environmentalism and the poor; also some controversial and disturbing views on infanticide, euthanasia etc. So it was good to chat a bit with Gordon Preece and got his autograph on the book on "Rethinking Peter Singer" frm Canaanland.

Here is a nice review of the book:
“Since neither a newborn human infant nor a fish is a person, the wrongness of killing such beings is not as great as the wrongness of killing a person.”

“…regarding a newborn infant as not having the same right to life as a person, the cultures that practiced infanticide were on solid ground.”

These are two of four quotes from philosopher Peter Singer that were featured in a quarter-page ad in the Australian newspaper during the 1996 federal election. The Australian Family Association took out the ad because Peter Singer was running as a Green Senate candidate. Fortunately for the unborn, the newborn, the elderly and many other “non-persons”, Singer received only a tiny fraction of the vote.

He now teaches at Princeton University, after a long career at Melbourne’s Monash University. He has written over twenty books, and is regarded as a leading contemporary philosopher and bioethicist. He is famous for his advocacy of animal liberation, as well as for his callous view of human life.

This new book, edited by an ethicist at Melbourne’s Ridley College, contains five important articles offering a critical assessment of Singer’s philosophy and writings.

After an incisive introduction, Preece offers a close look at the man and his work in chapter one. While recognising the relative consistency throughout his writings, he points out the well-known inconsistency of his regard for his mother has she wrestled with Alzheimer’s disease. He rightly notes that on the basis of Singer’s utilitarian and consequentialist outlook, he should have bumped off his own mother. But fortunately for his mother, “Singer is a better son and person than ethicist”.
Read on for the rest of the review

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Steely Zest For Life

It was a humbling experience the first time we met Carol and got to know about her trust in the Lord and courage to take on the challenges of life. She is a heaven-sent miracle right in front of our eyes. Here is an excerpt from New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: She was born with brittle bone disease, and doctors warned her parents she would not live long. But even as a baby, Carol Rasiah was a fighter.

Now 35 years old and confined to a wheelchair, she radiates joy for living and gutsy determination.

A part-time writer and small businesswoman, she says the most painful experience in her life was missing out on a formal education. There were not many schools for the disabled in her youth.

"Even when I had the opportunity to go to school, the teachers were afraid to deal with my physical condition," says Rasiah.

She has the rare bone disease osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder which causes weakened bones that fracture and break easily. In its more severe form it can prevent growth and lead to malformed bones and breathing difficulties.

Rasiah earns a living running a small sweets shop, and she contributes articles on her perspective on life to international magazines. She’s a part-time volunteer with the Beautiful Gate Foundation for the Disabled in SS2, a training centre and residence. She dreams of taking computer and journalism classes.

Despite the many challenges she faces on a daily basis, pity is not a word in her lexicon.

"I don’t believe in sympathy. I believe the disabled and the able should live together as one community. I understand that sometimes able-bodied people feel uncomfortable, and also that not all disabled people can communicate well, but that can be changed," she said.

She was attending Petaling Jaya City Hall’s International Disabled Persons’ Day celebrations.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Postmodernism defined as self-referential absurdity

Do check out this episode of Ockham's Razor in which Author Larry Buttrose takes a critical look at postmodern theory which has enjoyed great popularity in Universities for a long time but is now in decline;

Larry tells us;

"The rococo tabernacle of intellectual chic, Theory enjoyed vogue in universities worldwide, but now finds itself closely interrogated. So great has postmodernism's own crisis become that at the start of semester in a compulsory Theory-based writing unit at one Sydney university, students had their tutor commiserate for the pain they would have to endure, and hand around chocolates ... In some ways comparable to John Howard's like-minded scientists who have for the past decade reassured us that all is well and that the earth does indeed remain flat.

Chocolate-coated or not, Theory leaves a bitter aftertaste. Following a recent newspaper publication of my critique of it, the emails I received, overwhelmingly in favour, came mostly from graduates lamenting their precious educational time wasted on Theory as undergraduates. Despite ructions murmured within, the academy kept mum, but the Empire might well still write back, at a time of its own choosing."

Read the full transcript here or download the MP3 Audio narrated by the Author here.


Larry Buttrose is doing a PhD on creative writing at the Southern Cross University in Lismore. And his latest book is called 'Powerful and influential - people who have changed the way we think.'

Monday, November 27, 2006

Policy of Basic Respect

TRICIA YEOH, a Senior Research Analyst with a public policy institute, wrote:

OUR prime minister, in closing the Umno General Assembly last week, said that leaders of a race who respect and honour the Federal Constitution must also be responsible enough to defend the rights of the non-Malays. He reminded his members that Barisan Nasional, the country’s coalition government, should make decisions based on what is best for the country and its people. Indeed, one accedes to our country’s premier a merit of consistency in calling for tolerance and respect for all ethnic groups alike.

Recent statements by his fellow party members have therefore been more than a little confusing to the public at large, leaving the following examples ringing in our ears.

Bangsa Malaysia, a fundamental concept in espousing national unity in our multi-ethnic country, has been rejected in favour of limiting the definition of Malaysians to Malays being the main, or pivotal, race in the country. Leaders of Barisan Nasional component parties have been chided for expressing their fears that the communities they represent are being sidelined. Strong and offensively racial statements have been reportedly made in the duration of the past week. An Umno leader was asked when he would use the keris (the traditional Malay dagger) some time after brandishing it at the general assembly.

Now, such assertions are reflective of either a serious contradiction in terms upon which our national leaders seem to operate, or a gross misunderstanding of the prime minister’s rhetoric of justice and respect for all.

In either case, the public is greatly puzzled as a result. It is becoming increasingly difficult to correspond Pak Lah’s noble calls for tolerance and harmony with those that are in blatant disregard of the most basic respect for humanity, perhaps even falling short of being classified as seditious.

Indeed and rightfully so, the Umno Youth Chief has cautioned that stern action be taken against those who play the racial card for political interests. To the keen observer, however, it does strangely seem as if many may already be culpable of this very warning.

A cost to national interest

This unfortunate inconsistency brings about several consequences. Firstly, it brings the level of national discourse several steps down the intellectual ladder. Quality debates founded upon informed facts, and not biased opinion, should be the order of the day. A great deal more time and energy should be spent on discussion which encourages new long-term strategies feasible for the country. Instead, recent babble demonstrates that Malaysians are contentedly myopic in its obsession with race and religion.

Secondly, it shows the lack of commitment to seriously tackling issues of national development. In such an age of globalization, economic competitiveness and ideas to improve trade and investment ought to be high up in the list of discussion content. Our neighbouring countries continue to improve by leaps and bounds in foreign direct investment, whilst Malaysia slides sluggishly to 62nd place, according to the 2005 UNCTAD FDI rankings.

The quality of tertiary education, both in teaching methods and content, needs to be brought to an international level. That none of these was the key focus of the recent Umno assembly, the country’s largest political party, is especially worrying.

Finally, if this perceived discrepancy continues, it inevitably comes at a cost to national unity – ironically enough, the primary goal that Vision 2020 sets out to achieve. The fear is that such sentiment of racial undertones, intentionally or not, would then seep to the masses. Nobody wishes for such a situation to come to pass.

Platforms of understanding

There are, however, solutions that can be sought. Basic ground rules should be set up and strictly adhered to. Statements that hint at compromising national unity in any way should be reprimanded. This should apply to all leaders in all public discussion, including parliamentary debates. Condemnatory insults of any race or religion should not be tolerated under any circumstance. In short, there should be conscious effort to move away from clamour and steadily towards rational dialogue.

Forming such common platforms of understanding is the first step forward. It should be collectively agreed that a basic level of respect for humanity, in line with Islam, is to be maintained, both in speech and in action. This agreement should not come as a result of coercion, but of willing and intentional decision by all parties. While it is true that many national policy issues will not be as quickly or easily resolved, at least one should stand tall as the benchmark against which all others are evaluated: national unity.

There is an urgent need to demonstrate that the political leadership is ready and willing to be consistent in its various policies and public statements. Failure to do so leaves the public in the dark as to which is the most accurate or sincere in nature. National interest must be seriously considered, a wake-up call that insular thinking will bring us nowhere.

If the government is serious about its philosophy of respecting and defending the rights of all races in Malaysia, then let’s have less talk about theoretical notions and more action.

I quote from Pak Lah, that “one of the nine thrusts of Vision 2020 is to create a mature democratic society. We have stated our desire to work towards establishing a mature, liberal and tolerant society. If we are serious about this goal, we must pursue the process of transformation with diligence.” I concur.

Read on for a good example of being a witness in the marketplace

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Preaching Workshop

Wanna learn more about preaching or homiletics?
Soo Inn has promised to conduct a course on preaching for friends in Bandar Utama Chapel and for Agora. He suggested to do the theory component in one intensive Saturday seminar.

Date: Jan 20 2007
Time:10am - 4pm
Venue: Bandar Utama Chapel (Antioch)

Interested ones can contact us at or "This will be a big help. I am looking forward to this seminar because I truly believe preaching God's word is not just for a few
pulpit superstars (and we know what can happen to them) but for all of God's people. I want to empower as many as possible. Thanks for your partnership. Soo Inn"

Freedom From Cultural Captivity

Agora, OHMSI and CDPC are co-hosting the above Study of Nancy Pearcey's book called "Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity" for anyone interested. Our target group is all those between 25-40 years of age; although technically there are no age limits.

The Objective of the Study is "to review existing and mainstream worldview
assumptions and to reform our own thinking to evolve a biblical and Christian worldview which will guide us to think and act accordingly."

The Guidelines for the book study are:

1. It is a one year commitment, and the participant is responsible to get your own copy of the book. (contact Hedonese or Canaanland) Prior reading of the Chapter to be discussed is required and there must be a willingness to speak and participate at small group levels. Those who have not read the chapter cannot participate in the discussion. We cannot miss more than one session consecutively to remain in the study. Punctuality is critical, and all are advised to arrive 15 minutes before start time to fellowship.

2. We agree to "wait upon the Lord and pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit" in how the Lord wants to "use us in the public affairs of life" as a direct result and encouragement from the study. As the Lord leads, we will follow through these "actions" as a commitment to the Study Group.

3. Study Group members agree to become part and parcel of the Action Movement portion of the National Congress on Integrity (NCOI) currently jointly organized by OHMSI and GCF.

4. Format for each session:

-10 minute overview by a Speaker and some questions/issues to consider
-60 minutes discussion of the chapter in small groups; and to raise issues which cannot be resolved
-45 minutes of plenary discussion to resolve any unresolved issues from the discussion and wrap up

5. We will all endeavor to start our own similar study group elsewhere upon completion of this study. Also, at about the final sessions (Oct/Nov 07
or Dec/Jan 08), the meet days may be collapsed into a retreat away from KL and
over the weekend to finish well and to focus on any really BIG ISSUES THAT
REMAIN UNRESOLVED. We could even invite other Elders to join us for differing views.

6. Start date is 27th January 2007 and every last Saturday of the month after that for the rest of the year, except if festival holidays coincide.
Start time is 10.00am to finish by 12.00noon. Place is fixed at CDPC
(See Map available at All are encouraged to arrive by 9.45am to fellowship before start time. A "willing and able hunger lunch fellowship" will follow for those interested and can spare the time.

7. Please pray that all those interested and ordained by God will be able,
available and make the commitment to come. God Bless.

Yours because His,
KJ John,


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tribute to Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

The last 50 years of the worlds economy has been a struggle between the forces of the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman. Keynes comes from the more European styled more government intervention liberal perspective and Friedman form the American styled conservative deregulated free markets. These two forces worked well correcting each other, so much so that I have heard a prominent economics professor say that the Capitalism practiced today in America would have been called Socialism 100 years ago.

My conclusion, learning from the great economist and lectures of our time is that the markets must be free enough to be a messenger to us – and then the government steps in after that to repair and restores the causalities left behind by the market, only when there are no other options left.

I guess I would side more with the Friedman school of thought, not because I would like to see Laissez-faire economics oppress people again, but as Friedman said in his famous essay, “Is Capitalism Humane?”;

“Capitalism per se is not humane or inhumane; socialism is not humane or inhumane. But capitalism tends to give much freer rein to the more humane values of human beings. It tends to develop an atmosphere which is more favorable to the development on the one hand of a higher moral climate of responsibility and on the other greater achievements in every realm of human activity.”

Freer markets tend to develop the economy better, and a developed economy can produce more resources to help others. Now granted that the money may be hoarded by the elite, this is why the governance and policies of a nation are also so crucial, and in my Christian interest, I want to see the poor and marginalized helped with both their dignity in their self effort intact and when they cant put in any effort – then I want to see them helped without killing the goose that lays our golden eggs.

I post this mainly as a tribute to Milton Friedman, who passed away last Thursday, 16 November 2006. A great economist in the tradition of Adam Smith, he was known as the great champion of economic freedom in the 20th Century.

The short summary of Friedman’s life and work can be found on;

Friedman is best known for his monetarist policies – insisting that inflation is highly destructive and that only monetary policy can control it – but that monetary policy is a heavyweight instrument and cannot be used for short-term economic management. But he is also distinguished for pioneering work on other subjects such as the unintended effects of professional licensing and prise regulation, tax policy, and the theory of the consumption function.

To find out more, get his book Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition

or to learn about Friedman and some other important economist in history check out this resource:

Legacies of Great Economists (Course No. 528)
(10 lectures in MP3, 45 minutes/lecture for USD 15.95)

Taught by Professor Timothy Taylor for The Teaching Company
Macalester College, M.Econ., Stanford University

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Umno Presidential Address

The following press statement was issued today to the major newspapers. Kindly read through and continue to pray for our country

Press Statement Nov 16, 2006

Malaysian Evangelical Christians Hails

Umno President Presidential Address

NECF Malaysia lauds Umno President Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for his firm and assuring statements made while delivering his presidential address at the opening of the 57th Umno General Assembly on Nov. 14.

His statements reflected his sincerity and commitment to his responsibility as the Prime Minister of all Malaysians.

NECF particularly notes and welcomes his specific commitment to:

Firmly act against any group, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, who incites the public with "bogus allegations and fictitious threats";
Reject any demonstration of the "new intolerance";
Strengthen national unity, to promote cooperation and dialogue;
Uphold meritocracy and to promote excellence as the way forward for Malaysia, and "no race should be left behind in terms of educational attainment";
Eradicate poverty regardless of racial background;
Enforce the rule of law in battling against corruption in particular;
Advocate good governance: political leadership should provide "best possible example by displaying honesty, diligence, dedication and commitment"; and
Affirm freedom of expression in rational manner: "a nation should provide channels that enable its people to voice their concerns."
Although his speech was read in his position as the Umno president, NECF deems his message beneficial to all Malaysians as it aims at raising a generation of united and progressive Malaysians who are able to tackle the challenges of a globalising world.

However, NECF regrets the statements made by several Umno leaders, which appear to go against Datuk Seri commitment towards national integration and unity.

Their statements further demonstrate an unhealthy superior attitude by blaming on and unnecessarily issuing warning statements against the people of other races.

NECF notes with deep disappointment their statements that the rights of Malays were being threatened by the other races. Such statements made so publicly are likely to breed resentment in the hearts of our Malay brethren, and is definitely injurious to peaceful race relations in the country.

NECF is also disappointed by some Umno leaders for rejecting the setting up of an Interfaith Commission and discouraging discussion on constitutional provisions.


Prepared and released by NECF Malaysia Secretary-General Rev. Wong Kim Kong, J.M.N. For assistance, please contact Rev. Wong at 016-229 2017.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Puritan Lessons on Faith and Work - Part 2

The Puritan view of vocation not only legitimized all manner of work as service to God but also had practical implications in the way work was conducted. One such implication was exemplified in the Puritan’s motivation for his life’s work. Imagine a young man seeking to make choices regarding his career choice. What might he receive as career counseling advice from his Puritan elders?

Here’s a possible sampling of their sage advice which I’ve “distilled” into a few key takeaways –

Key advice: Have a high view of why you work

“Some man will say perchance: …must we not labor in our callings to maintain our families? I answer: this must be done but this is not the scope and the end of our lives. The true end of our lives is to do service to God in serving of man”
William Perkins

Key advice: Don’t be motivated by fame or fortune but rather by a desire to serve.

“Choose that employment or calling in which you may be most serviceable to God. Choose not that in which you may be most rich or honorable in the world; but that in which you may do most good...”
Richard Baxter

Key advice: Carefully assess your gifts when choosing your life’s work - they are a possible indicator of God's leading

“Another thing to make the calling warrantable is when God gives a man gifts for it…When God hath called me to a place, he has given me some gifts fit for that place, especially if the place be suitable and fitted to me and my best gifts…”
John Cotton

Key advice: Be on your guard against selfish, worldly ambition as you pursue your life’s work.

“Take heed lest, under the pretense of diligence in your calling, you be drawn to earthly-mindedness, and excessive cares or covetous designs for rising in the world”
Richard Baxter

None of this is the kind of advice we're accustomed to hearing or the kind of thinking we carry to work daily. We're not often exhorted to pursue work for the purposes of service nor are we advised to be cautious of selfish ambition. Instead we are often ambitious without caution and pursue work for wealth-building rather than service. This unusual thinking is at the heart of the Puritan work ethic. I suspect it sounds strangely out of place in the corporate world today not because it's antiquated but because it's counter-culture.

For more reading on integrating faith and work:

Puritan Lessons on Faith and Work - Part 1
Ambition and the Christian

Theistic Evolutionist you should know

Here is a short tribute to some of my heroes of the faith who laboured to synthesize their convictions that the truth of biology and zoology and the truth of the bible must meet at the top. Men like Asa Gray;

The leading American botanist of the nineteenth century, Asa Gray helped organize the main generalizations of the science of plant geography. The manual of botany that carries his name is still in use today. Friend and confidant of Charles Darwin, Gray became the most persistent and effective American protagonist of Darwin's views. Yet at the same time, he believed that religion and Darwin's theory of natural selection could coexist.

See the list.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Examining the Theology of the Word-Faith Movement

Health and wealth are two major concerns of many people. Therefore anyone who offers a guaranteed package of health and wealth will attract many people.

Three of the four megachurches in the United States belong to the Word-Faith movement. These churches are Osteen’s Lakewood in Houston, Creflo’s Dollar World Changers near Atlanta and T.D.Jakes’ Potter House in south Dallas.

The Word-Faith movement is also called the Positive Confession movement because of the importance it placed on the spoken Word of God and God Faith. It is also described as the “Name It and Claim It” movement, Health and Wealth theology or just Prosperity Gospel.

This article will examine the theology of the Word-Faith movement from the perspective of Reformed Theology


The Apprentice

Consistent with the CPDC vision to leadership development, college and university students have undergone the Habitude leadership course by Tim Elmore. One of the young graduates who chose to remain anonymous shared an encouraging testimony of how the Lord taught her a lesson while she went for a McKinsey interview. (Just to give an idea how tough it is to get a job here, let's just say the process is similar to TV reality show The Apprentice)

Cause here you have to compete with a bunch of the brightest graduates around, going through a long series of workshops and get risk 'elimination' after each round.

The first assignment was to write an essay on "Which leader inspired you the most? Why?" My friend thought she would write something true to herself. So naturally, she wrote about Jesus and passed it up.

But when the Director asked the group of young guns, "Who's the inspirational leader you wrote about?" answers came up like "Clinton!", "Gandhi", "Mother Theresa", "Bill Gates" and so on.

At that point, my friend was quite embarassed. Imagine how politically incorrect in that corporate setting to say, "Jesus!" She remained silent.

But just then, the Director produced a selected essay and read it out:
"This is the best essay I've seen. It's original and I want you all to be like this".

Guess what? It's her essay about Jesus. And she felt the Lord is teaching a lesson here, "You don't need to be embarassed of me. Stand tall for Me in the marketplace".

Wanna know what she wrote? Here is the essay:


A leader whom I admire greatly once told me, that to be a great leader, one must be the servant of all. As paradoxical as it sounds, it holds great depth of meaning in addressing the qualities of a leader.

I believe for a leader to be a servant of all he must first possess humility, a heart that is teachable. He must be willing to learn not only from the mighty and the strong but also from the weak, plain and simple. A humble leader is also one who is willing to serve and to work side-by-side with his followers, seeing them as his equals.

Integrity is also another essence of a leader. There must be a consistency between what he preaches and what he practises – ‘walking the talk’ in his lifestyle and leading by it. Integrity in a leader also means a steadfast grip to values and beliefs in all circumstances and to remain wholesome through it.

Finally, I believe a leader should not only have dreams and visions but to be able to inspire others to achieve them. He must be able to bring out the strengths of each follower and also be ready to accept their weaknesses with respect, while achieving the goal. As Peter Drucker mentioned, “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers”, it is imperative then for leaders to have not only the above mentioned qualities but definitely more and beyond in order to have followers.

Friday, November 10, 2006

从基督 看 同性恋

从基督徒伦理的角度来看, 同性恋是一门相当复杂的课题. 它牵涉到法律,社会心理学及医学, 甚至神学思考和圣经的基础原则. 虽然圣经有关<性>与<犯罪>的教导对基督徒伦理有关键性的影响, 但同性恋的课题并不能够只用几个圣经里的例子来作结论.

我经常被一些肤浅的解说困扰了我的思想; 尤其是针对同性恋这种触摸到人内心深处复杂情感的课题. 然而, 身为基督徒, 我们不应廻避神学及圣经对这课题的释义;因为,我们是本着圣经为我们安身立命的终身原则.

在现今时代,作为耶稣基督忠诚的跟从者,我们更要深入思考圣经及神学论在同性恋这课题的教导. 有所谓一群同性恋基督徒, 更是自创及推广了他们自己一套的哲理,导致同性恋这风气也越来越盛旺. 他们甚至曲解了圣经, 并且坚持圣经的教导和同性恋的立场是没有冲突的, 尤其是对于一生只有一位(同性恋)伴侣的主张, 他们认为这是符合圣经教导的.

(当今, 同性恋的风气已经侵入大马,近期更有一位知名的基督徒作家当众宣告他是一位同性恋者. 这位同性恋基督徒也向公众表明了他的展望 - 也就是在他完成他现今在美国的社会与神学博士学位后,将会回来大马组织及开办同性恋者的教会.)

那么, 到底圣经在同性恋这课题是有着怎样的教导及解说呢? 我认为教会在这方面, 则应该以更谦卑的心态来了解圣经所提供的资料。别忘了不久以前,就有一些教会以主观的解圣来支持种族主义和奴隶的观念。


Richard B. Hays说过:

“圣经很少深入地讨论到关于同性恋的课题.反观贫富不均这课题, 圣经倒是有很多的解说及教导.”

但是,无论如何,圣经里对于同性恋这回事, 仍是有着明确的立场表明。特别是通过罗马书1:26–27的经文表达,是再清楚不过的。


首先,圣徒保罗在这段经文中, 是指着同性的性<行为>; 而不是指着那些有着同性恋倾向的人,被保罗责备的是男同性恋及女同性恋的性<行为>. 反观歌林多前书,圣徒保罗则是在指责那些身带一些罪恶的罪<人>。在罗马书1:26–27的经文里, 保罗是指着所有的罪人而说的 - 所有的罪人都陷入了背叛他们创造主的罪恶当中。

保罗的立场是很明确. 他说世人都犯了罪,亏欠了上帝的荣耀. 更甚者, 在这段经文中, 保罗把<同性性交行为>举例为人类堕落最典型的罪恶。

再者, HAYS先生也说:

“在这里保罗把同性性交行为作为最典型的范例 - 人类的堕落已把上帝创造的定律大大的给破坏了。上帝创造男人、女人是为了让他们生养众多。当人类以自己的意思来‘更换’ 上帝所指定的角色,而进行同性性交的行为,他们已经以自己的行为,潜意识自主地代替了上帝。”

保罗在这里使用同性恋行为作为典范的例子来形容堕落的人类,是因为我们很清楚的知道, 我们人类是被上帝创造为男和女各别异性的. 使徒保罗在这段经文中描述的很清楚,同性恋不是上帝所意识及认同的.

“于是,神照着自己的形象创造人;就是照着他的形象创造了人;他所创造的有男有女。”(创 1:27)

所有背弃男与女性行为的定律,都是一种对上帝- 我们的创造主的污辱。


我最喜欢的一位属灵作者 - HenriNouwen,在他后期的作品中讲述了他许多的孤单和创伤。


我们众人因罪本也不完美. 当活在这堕落的世上,是极为痛苦的。所以身为耶稣基督跟从者的我们, 有着一个盼望, 就是那即将来临完美的天地和那完全的医治。



这个等待及跟随当然对我们来说是很艰难的事情,尤其是对于某些人来说是更为困难的。更因如此, 我们是很须要神的恩典!

(当今有些同性恋信徒极力要开办及创立一个可以包容他们的教会,这是否乃是传统教会无法给予那些挣扎要信靠及跟随耶稣的同性恋倾向者爱和包容? 若真是如此,相信神必向我们责问.)

我们应自我反省, 如果我们是真诚的想为上帝的传扬福音工作而奋斗,那么我们应该服侍所有等候上帝的灵魂, 更不可忽略同性恋者!

我猜想有很多的人, 对同性恋这课题比其他课题有着更大的兴趣.但HAYS先生提醒我们,上帝对经济不平衡的课题还有加多的教导及指示.

我们不能做的, 是加添圣经里面所没有提及的事情。罗马书1:24-27经常提醒我,圣经极其反对同性恋的性行为。

Soo-Inn Tan

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ambition and the Christian

A recent conversation with a friend convinced me that many christians in the marketplace are confused about what to do with personal ambition. As we spoke, I realized that he was struggling to discover how to pursue his dreams and ambitions without compromising his first love. I recognized the struggle in him because I've been there and am still there to some degree.

Ambition for the Christian is a curious thing. We are conflicted because we've heard the cautionary tales of Christians gone awry with selfish ambition. Yet, we feel the pull of a God given desire to be productive. It led me to explore the topic in a three part series on my Every Square Inch blog.

For those not inclined or don't have time to check out my posts, the key takeaways from the posts include:
  • Dreams and ambitions are gifts from God that we should steward in a responsible manner. Rather than retreating from ambition, we should embrace it as God's gift to us.
  • Stewarding ambition with responsibility entails being rightly motivated.
  • Pursuing ambition as a Christian must involve a trust in God.
  • While we explore our ambition, we must do so in faithfulness.

Otherwise, if you're interested to check it out, here are the links

Part 1 - Stewarding Our Ambition

Part 2 - Trusting God with Our Ambition

Part 3 - Stewarding Ambition with Faithfulness

Join the conversation on this topic at Every Square Inch and tell me what you think.

If God Knows The Future, Why Pray?

Not too long ago, C.S. Lewis could confidently assert, “Everyone who believes in God at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to do tomorrow.” Even my non-Christian colleagues are fond of saying, “I have no idea about what will happen. Only God knows!

However, a group of prominent scholars identified with the "open theism" movement has recently rejected the classical understanding of God’s foreknowledge in favor of a more 'relational, risk-taking' model of God.

Let us explore the practical and pastoral implications of open theism on three crucial facets of prayer - namely, our requests for God to act in our lives, seeking His will for decision-making and responses in the midst of pain and suffering.

For more details, check out the series on Moving The Hand of God:
Moving The Hand Of God (Intro)
What Is Open Theism?
If God Knows The Future, Why Pray?
Could We Trust God's Guidance With Major, Long-Term Decisions?
Praying In The Dark Night Of The Soul
Moving The Hand Of God (Conclusion)
Footnotes and Bibliography

Pentingkah Apa Yang KuPercaya?

Some interesting blog posts I've come across recently that definitely deserve to be forwarded to friends and families :)

Cahaya Nusantara a young blog that seeks to translate quality Christian resources for the Bahasa-speaking community in East/West Malaysia posed a tricky question: Pentingkah Apa Yang Ku Percaya? (Way to go, guys!!)

"Dalam bidang keagamaan kita sering mementingkan keikhlasan iman kita (contohnya, adakah anda betul-betul mencintai Tuhan?) lebih daripada kebenaran iman kita (contohnya, adakah kepercayaan ini benar?). Saya merasakan ini sangat pelik.

Sebenarnya, apakah maksud kepercayaan?"

(I like the poem "Andai ada pelita di tangan, "Masakan disimpan di dalam peti?
Andai ada genggaman garam, Masakan dibuang ke dalam laut?" Reminds me of how rich and dispersed spiritual gifts are in the body of christ, if you could help and willing in this project? Join in the party)

Alex wrote on The Renovation of our souls :

"Some of us may have been Christians for so many years that we have become too comfortable in church. We may not be aware of an inner shift in the soil of our inner spiritual life away from God. Maybe we have been praying less and do not attend prayer meetings anymore. We find less and less time to read the Bible. Where once there was an urgency to share about Jesus with our non-Christian friends, there is none now. We find ourselves putting less and less into the offering bags.

It may even have been years since we regularly examine our lives to see whether we are living a life glorifying to God. We share less and less with each other about what God is doing in our lives. Our emotions are more often full of anger than of gratitude. Anger is a sign that we are not content with what we have. If that is so, we may need to do some renovation in the garden of our souls."

David Tan wrote God In The Dock on the atheistic 'backlash':

"The famous Darwinist Richard Dawkins is especially virulent in his views and it is no secret that he thinks religious adherents are bigots and nutcases, and are the cause of the world’s woes. I’ve not read his latest book ‘The God Delusion’ but it’s already a bestseller. I picked up this quote from the book that says; "Stalin was an atheist and Hitler probably wasn't, but even if he was ... the bottom line is very simple. Individual atheists may do evil things but they don't do evil things in the name of atheism."

Well, I’m tempted to say that Stalin and Hitler and their ilk may not have killed millions in the name of atheism, but they definitely did so in the name of natural selection. Why Dawkins should point the finger at religion and exonerate atheism, needs no rationale. But why not invoke what is obviously a demonstrable evidence of survival of the fittest when people kill each other (whatever the motivation)? So what’s wrong with indulging in a little gene pool cleansing?"

Sherman wrote about the Games Ministers Play:

"I was having a long chat last night with a younger brother of mine who’s in training for the full-time ministry. The basic essence of the discussion rested upon the reality that few people today understand the most fundamental functions of a minister, which are to conduct the sacraments (together with living the incarnational / sacramental life) and to preach the authentic gospel of Christ. Even senior pastors; they’re most often taken in by church growth models and programmes focused on acquisition and retention.

The model of ministry has evolved uncritically. A pastor is now gauged by how effective he is in managing a church which propels around programmes and systems. The pastor is consciously seen as coordinator, manager, and organiser; everything but the sacramental presence of Christ among his people".

Friday, November 03, 2006

Christianity and Intellectual Freedom

Does Christianity allow its members intellectual freedom? Does being a disciple of Christ allow us the freedom to think? Jesus commanded his disciples to make other disciples, instructing them about all that he has taught them (Matt 28:18,19).

Did Jesus teach his disciples to think? “Who do you say I am?” Jesus asked Simon Peter (Matt 16:15). That is a thinking question. Jesus started by asking who the others thought he was, and then he asked Simon Peter that question. In the gospel narratives, Jesus always taught the disciples to think, guided them to come to the correct conclusions and to make decisions. That is intellectual freedom.

Does our intellectual freedom allow us to explore areas of knowledge that are not considered “Christian”? How we answer this question is important. One answer will lead to a wider concept of intellectual freedom. The other answer will lead to books banning and burning.

The concept of intellectual freedom will imply that everyone will have the freedom to express unorthodox or unpopular views, and the importance of allowing to be made available these unorthodox or unpopular views. This will mean that we allow our church members to be exposed to all types of knowledge, praying that our church teaching is enough to help them discern what is acceptable and what is not. I know this statement will make many of you uneasy.

What happens if these unorthodox or unpopular views unduly influence our congregations? What if they contain some ideas that conflict with our church’s teaching? Will it corrupt the younger Christians and our youth? Surely some of these unorthodox or unpopular views should be so deeply buried that they will not see the light of day. The church leadership should appoint themselves to be censors on what their congregations should read or watch. In other words, there is no intellectual freedom as we appoint ourselves as censors for the people of God.

Now what if other people think the same way as we do and appoint themselves as the censor or the guardians of our intellectual freedom? And these people have a different worldview than us? Does the pot then call the kettle black? The Home Ministry of Malaysia (KDN) has been banning books for years. Recently 109 books from one distributor were banned. see list. Why then do we get upset when the government restrict intellectual freedom while we applaud when we Christians restrict intellectual freedom on our own members?

I believe we should follow the example of our Lord. Jesus allowed his disciples the intellectual freedom to learn and make the correct choices. Someone once said, “All truth is God’s truth.” Moses was schooled as a prince by the Egyptians. Daniel was trained by the Babylonian court. Jeremiah sent a message to the exiles and told them to settle down and learn from their neighbours, the Babylonians. As a result of this openness, the learning and wisdom of the Jewish community in Babylon at that time was regarded as their golden age of learning. We need to trust in the sovereignty of the Lord and of the work of the Holy Spirit. As Gamaliel II said of the new Way movement, if it is of God, it will endure. If not, it will fade away.

Christianity should allow its adherents intellectual freedom to explore. Of course there is no such thing as absolute intellectual freedom. Even in the United States, the Supreme Court acknowledges that there are certain exceptions to the First Amendment (freedom of speech). These are obscenity, child pornography, slander and defamation, state secrets, and ‘inflammatory speeches’ that will cause riots. Aside from that there are the freedom to think and express one’s views.

Now why would the Home Ministry (KND) ban Read –Aloud Children’s classics, “Vogue”-Make-up, A History of God (Karen Armstrong), SpongeBob Square Pants, Dora, The Malayan Trilogy (Antony Burgess) and People Watching: Desmond Morris’ Guide to Body Language? How will these books corrupt Malaysian society? It need a lot of thinking to make sense of this.

And there are much more for Christians to think about nowadays: open theism, emergent churches, ancient evangelical future, emigration, to name but a few such thoughts.

Soli Deo Gloria

“If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”— John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition: for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. ”— Thomas Paine, Dissertation On First Principles Of Government

"On Sunday evening, members of the Harvest Assembly of God Church in Penn Township sing songs as they burn books, video and CDs that they have judged offensive to their God."

Bulter Eagle, March 26, 2001

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

So What's Wrong With Homosexuality?

In the tradition of STR, I wrote a brief response to an pro-gay article in Malaysiakini called So What? Its Their Sexual Preference.

Dear Francis

First, let me say that I hold no grudges against homosexuals. Not only that, I fully support your timely call to treat our fellow Malaysians who are homosexuals with respect, understanding and compassion.

The authorities must be vigilant to bring swift justice upon those immoral individuals who verbally or physically abused them.

Now, I accept my homosexual friends as valuable, dignified human beings. And they understand that I do so without condoning their behavior. In my humble view, homosexuality is immoral just as heterosexual adultery is immoral.

However, if you say that publicly nowadays, you are immediately called derogatory names like homophobic,
heterosexist, bigot or hate-monger.

I don’t use emotive labels to publicly stigmatize people who I disagree with. But name-calling is often used to condemn people who disagree with the 'morality' of homosexual behavior.

This is a convenient but unhelpful way of muddying the waters. Of course, I may be wrong but at least my views are based on principles, not prejudice.

So what’s the big deal about homosexual behavior?

You seem to argue that homosexuality is ‘normal’ or morally benign because “being gay is their choice, they have the right to choose their preferences”. That’s a “freedom of choice” argument.

But let’s think about this: Can people choose whatever sexual preferences they fancy?

Apparently not. We are not morally entitled to choose preferences like pedophilia, necrophilia or extramarital affairs, for that matter.

Why not? Because it’s wrong, even if it’s done in private.

Now, it may be objected that unlike pedophilia, homosexual behavior may be consensual among adults. What’s wrong with gay lifestyle as long as “the couple truly love and accept each other”?

But again, this argument does not hold water after a moment’s reflection.

Are people allowed to commit adultery or incest “as long as they love and accept each other”?

Even a heterosexual man who falls in love with his own sister or daughter (yucks!) can’t simply marry anyone he wants. So mutual consent simply does not justify immoral behaviors.

Now, I do agree with your description of homosexual practice becoming more “normal” or publicly visible as seen in examples of gay clerics, Ang Lee movies and celebrity tabloids.

But what is “normal” (as- is) may not be “normative” (ought-to-be).

Yes, homosexuals are among us. But it doesn't follow that their behavior is a moral norm just as having Mat Rempits all around us does not mean that we ought to encourage illegal races.

There is also another sense of the word “normal”, meaning “things are functioning in the way it was meant to be”. When things work “normally”, they are fulfilling what they are designed to do.

In this sense, homosexual practice is simply “abnormal”. Sexual organs were obviously not meant to fit in bodies the way homosexuals use them, resulting in a host of adverse medical consequences.

So we should not confuse the call to accept the existence of homosexuals in a spirit of tolerance with advocacy for homosexual behavior as morally acceptable.

Now don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of confusion when it comes to making such distinctions.

Our moral objection against homosexuality per se no more fosters violence against homosexuals than our disagreement against adultery fosters violence against people who are unfaithful to their spouses.

I am not asking people to be bigoted gay-bashers, spread hate or boycott Elton John’s music just because there are moral objections against their lifestyles. This kind of thinking would make PEMADAM responsible every time a drug addict gets beat up behind Chow Kit Road.

Lastly, I share your hope for a period of social reform in our nation that makes for a more equitable, just and caring society for all citizens regardless of creed, skin color or economic status.

Ethnicity has nothing to do with morality. With homosexuality we're talking about something different – it is a particular behavior that most Malaysians find odd, unnatural, harmful and deeply unethical.

As yet, there is no confirmed biological cause for homosexuality. Even if a biological factor may contribute to homosexual tendency, it does not determine our choices. Human beings are not programmed robots whose destiny is fixed by nature.

Surely, we don’t approve of hot-blooded heterosexuals who ‘naturally’ feel biological urges to grope female pedestrians to carry out their hormone-induced inclinations just because they are supposedly ‘born that way”. Even they are not entitled with such ‘equal rights’ in society.

Why not? Perhaps not because of blind prejudice, prudery or lack of scientific understanding.

But simply because it’s unethical.

They should still have the freedom to vote, find security and equal employment opportunity as any other citizen in our country.

But no one – heterosexual or homosexual – is entitled to unethical behavior.

Chang Wei Hao, a heterosexual sinner in the process of being rescued by Grace, is also an avid blogger at The Agora.