Friday, March 30, 2007

In Memory Of Mr Kirton

I first fell in love with theology while working at Evangel Bookstore, SS2. It is here that I found books by Schaeffer, CS Lewis, Sproul, Lloyd Jones through Martin, Rodney, Jacob etc. and learnt that for Evangel, the primary mission is to serve the church through literature, not profit.

So I consider myself deeply indebted to the legacy of this ministry, founded by Mr Eric Kirton and several other stakeholders. He peacefully passed into God's rest on March 24, 2007.

I will miss his witty interviews with Klang Valley Bible Conference speakers like what he had done with luminaries like Carson, Chris Wright and others. Last year's event is somewhat meaningful, looking back now, when he took special effort to invite the organisers of KVBC, who had labored behind the scenes, to step up and share the centerstage. He ran a good race, and passed the baton...

If you have a fond memory of Mr Eric Kirton to share, please send them to and check out this website that celebrates the legacy and life of this missionary/servant of the Lord.

The People formerly known as The Congregation

We are people - flesh and blood - image bearers of the Creator - eikons, if you will.

We are not numbers.

We are the eikons who once sat in the uncomfortable pews or plush theatre seating of your preaching venues.

We sat passively while you proof-texted your way through 3, 4, 5 or no point sermons - attempting to tell us how you and your reading of The Bible had a plan for our lives.

Perhaps God does have a plan for us - it just doesn't seem to jive with yours.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Citizendium – the Next Wikipedia

Larry Sanger, the cofounder of has decided to attempt to fix some of the plagues that Wikipedia faces like errors, juvenile vandalism and the sometimes incomprehensibly arcane contribution. Sanger who has a doctorate in philosophy is beginning a new user contributed encyclopedia online much like Wikipedia called, but with this difference, Citizendium's volunteer contributors will be expected to provide their real names and experts in given fields will be asked to check articles for accuracy.

Now this goes against the primary mantra of Wikipedia that "anyone can edit" and the egalitarianism that has made it into the colossal giant that it is. MIT reports that in just six years, Wikipedia has mushroomed into one of the Web's most astonishing successes, with 1.7 million articles in English alone.

But one of the strengths of Wikipedia has also been one of its weaknesses. Stephen Ewen, an adult-education instructor in Jupiter, Fla., who gave up on contributing to Wikipedia and plans to work on Citizendium, believes the quality of Wikipedia entries often degrades over time because someone inevitably comes along to express a counterproductive viewpoint. This kind of Hegelian synthesis works well on some issues, but not on others.

Some popular issues, have such volume of interest that the nuances and extremes slowly work itself out, much like the free market. Others however, have less interest, and are more susceptible to being hijacked by extremist and special interest groups. Thus, an editor, though not perfect, may be that force of correction, again similar those measures and tweaks we apply to market failures. But the editors themselves have to be in the dialogue, and themselves subject to editing and correction to avoid the single viewpoint paradigm that caused the other encyclopedias to loose out to Wikipedia.

I suspect in time, both of these projects will be successful, both offering a slightly different approach that will be useful under different circumstances.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Bock's Blog for latest Ossuary Debate News

Bock Writes;

"Jim Tabor, the biblical scholar and historical consultant on the Lost Family Tomb Documentary and Professor at the University of North Carolina (Charlotte), and I have been emaling back and forth privately about the evidence for the last few weeks. Today he emailed me his currect take on the evidence for the tomb belonging to Jesus' family which he has posted on his web site."

For the latest on this issue, do check out Bock's Blog.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

God's Glory in the Monotony of Work

Not all work is creative. In fact, I would venture that most work we engage in is of the repetitive, monotonous type - interspersed with rare opportunities for creativity. I’m thinking about all the work that gets done everyday – both at home and in business.

It so often seems like many of the chores around our home get done…only to get undone in a matter of days. I find that mowing the lawn could actually be fun, if you didn’t have to do it all over again every Saturday. Doing the laundry, cleaning the home, doing the dishes – all these tasks can have a certain repetitive feel to them.

It’s no easier in the corporate world. Whether we’re flipping burgers, attending meetings or organizing filing systems, many jobs can often feel monotonous to us. How do we approach the monotony of our working lives with a view that is glorifying to God and satisfying to our souls? Is that even possible? It’s relatively easy to understand how we’re reflecting God’s glory in conducting a task that is creative by nature but how do you glorify God when you’re doing the kind of repetitive work that seems devoid of creativity?

The world offers us no help in this regard. Ever notice how the kinds of work that are repetitive and monotonous are not well-regarded in the culture around us? Rewards are aplenty for the "creative class" but menial repetition is for the lesser among us. This is not God's view.

I had been thinking about this for a while (primarily because I dislike repetitive tasks) when I came upon a G.K Chesterton quote by way of John Piper’s book “When I Don't Desire God - How to Fight for Joy”. It offers a hint on a different way of thinking about the monotony we might face in our daily work.

“[Children] often say, “Do it again”; and the grown up person does it again till he is nearly dead. For grown up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps, God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes each daisy separately, but never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” G.K. Chesterton

Just pause a second and think about what this might mean to us. God glories in the repetition of the universe we live in. The sun rises in the same way every day and each time it does so, God rejoices in it because it functions in exactly the manner he desires. It'll keep doing so as a reflection of God's faithful rulership until God says "stop". The moon and stars reveal themselves according the a repetitive rhythm to a God who delights in the repetition. This is in no small part what Psalm 19 speaks of:

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge."

Day after day after day...the heavens testify of God's creative power, his faithfulness and his wisdom.

Yet, for most of us - we remain oblivious this daily testimony. Perhaps G.K Chesterton is right - our inability to see God in our daily monotony has less to do with the nature of the tasks and more to do with the effects of sin that have tainted our childlike joy. We need a new realization that God can, and does take pleasure in seeing us fulfill with faithfulness, seemingly mundane tasks. When we do these tasks joyfully, we exercise order in a world rendered disorderly by sin and we reflect the joyful faithfulness of our Father. This is nothing that can be achieved by natural means - we need God's help here. For when we're faced with the occasion for such tasks, we can turn our gaze Godward and have him enlighten our hearts with a new perspective.

May God graciously grant to us such a Godward perspective.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Unconstitutional To Require Non-Muslims To Seek Remedies in Syariah Court

Letter to Malaysia-Today by Tricia Yeoh, Centre for Public Policy Studies

The Centre for Public Policy Studies views with concern the recent majority decision of the Court of Appeal in Subashini v Saravanan where the Courts effectively required a non-Muslim to submit to the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court to have the theological laws of Islam applied to her in order to remedy unconstitutional orders from the Syariah courts in respect of their non Muslim marriage. In this ruling, the majority of the Court of Appeal also seem to have upheld the notion that one parent could convert an infant child to Islam without obtaining the consent of the other parent, and then go to the Syariah courts to get custody orders in respect of those infant children without the participation or consent of the non-Muslim spouse.

It is the Centre’s view that requiring a non-Muslim to seek remedies in the Syariah courts is unconstitutional and unfair. The Federal Constitution of Malaysia clearly states that the Syariah courts have jurisdiction only over persons professing the religion of Islam. To subject a non-Muslim to the laws of Islam would be unfair as a non-Muslim does not profess that religion so as to require the non Muslim to be governed by theological rules of that religion. The Centre is also of the view that true parental equality requires that both parents consent to any change in religion of an infant child.

It is important to note that we live in a plural society where adherents of different faiths interact freely with one another. What maintains this balance of mutual respect is a system that recognizes and ensures equal justice for all citizens alike. The Constitution as supreme law of the land has provided such a system that affirms justice for Muslims and non-Muslims respectively.

The recent ruling by the majority of the Court of Appeal sets a worrying precedent for future cases. Referring a non-Muslim to the Syariah courts for judicial reliefs is tantamount to impeding the constitutional rights of non-Muslims to profess and practise their faiths in peace and harmony. Access to justice is denied. This is contrary to the spirit and constitutional context of the system that all Malaysians have hitherto enjoyed.

If the law as it stands means the civil courts are unable to grant remedies to the non Muslim spouse (something the Centre doubts), then it is high time legislative intervention makes it clear that any court applying a religious law can only exercise jurisdiction over persons professing that religion.

Monday, March 19, 2007

RZIM Camp 2007

Reasonable Faith Training Program

Date: April 13 - 15, 2007
Venue: Hotel Puri Melaka, Malaysia
Contact: (IChing) for more details abt registration

Exciting and Relevant Issue: "Jesus among other lords"

The experienced RZIM team will take you on a discovery exploration on Religion roulette: How can we know for sure?, Interactive Movie Discussions, Worldview thinking, How now shall we live?, Postmodern spirituality, Jesus then and now, Ecclesiastes, Communicating the gospel in a pluralistic society and so much more!

Without a firm foundation in Scripture and the uniqueness of Christ, we would risk being captivated by religious pluralism and postmodern spirituality which reduced the gospel narrative as merely one among many religious options in the supermarket. I highly recommend this camp to everyone!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

No To False Dichotomy

Shall we choose between unity or doctrine?
Personal or Propositional?
Relationship or Truth?
Orthopraxis or orthodoxy?

Why can't we have both, avoiding a tunnel vision?

As LT Jeyachandran once said to me, "But the devil is in the details". Here's thot-provoking article from KrisisPraxis on some "details" that broaden and open up our options:

"It has become fashionable in some Christian circles to deride the need for theory or to disabuse the importance given to doctrinal orthodoxy as a poor substitute for living faith. Indeed, it is claimed that preoccupation with doctrinal orthodoxy leads to judgmentalism. Hence, the favourite slogan “From Absolute to Authentic”.

I think these criticisms are unfair. Do contemporary theologians view right doctrine as substitute for faith? Do theologians really offer their doctrinal formulations as absolute truth? For that matter how can Christians be authentic if they reject belief in absolute truth (which admittedly is fully grasped only by the omniscient God)? In any case, clarity is needed since contemporary theologians and critics differ on how the word ‘absolute’ is significant for Christian faith and understsanding...

“truth as transformation always involves truth as disclosure; speaking the truth is never separable but is distinguishable from doing the truth.”"

Read on for the rest of article

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Giving Reason for the Hope

"Do we not find numerous biblical instances of reasoned arguments employed in the ministry of Jesus Himself? In His didactic dialogues with Pharisees, Sadducees and disciples, Jesus rationally answered objections, opened up hidden assumptions with well-placed questions and appealed to miraculous signs as evidence for His claims.

During Paul’s missionary journeys, we frequently find him in synagogues persuading and debating Jewish religious leaders and pagan philosophers at Mars Hill on the validity of the gospel (Acts 14:15-17, 17:2-4, 16-31, 18:4, 19:8-9) . Since Luke took care to explicitly record that some who heard his presentation indeed chose to believe (Acts 17:34), the narrative does not function as an illustration of the bankruptcy of persuasion as taught by Watchman Nee. Even some of these converts’ names (Dionysius and Damaris) were mentioned, indicating that these men from Athens eventually made an impact on church life in later years. "

"Although there has been laudable work done by organisations like Kairos Research Center and NECF Research Commission, the Malaysian church remains generally shrouded by an anti-intellectual mood that substantially hinder the development of a robust inquiring spirit so crucial for the apologetic task. As many denominations were established by British and American missionaries, the confluence of inherited dispensational-fundamentalist theology, Holiness spirituality (“Let go, Let God!”) and Pentecostal-experiential instincts coloured much of our spiritual ethos. As a result, there is a common emphasis on “the dangers of the world, the comforts of the separated piety, the centrality of evangelism, and an expectation of the End.” Other sociological mitigating circumstances could be cited like pragmatic, populist and “immediate result” activism so characteristic of the enterpreneurial Chinese immigrants’ mindset.

Unsurprisingly, Noll’s critique of the ‘scandal of the evangelical mind’ for an American setting is largely relevant here as well, posing a formidable barrier against the development of an intellectual witness and cultural mandate for many complex and current religious and sociopolitical issues facing the Malaysian church."

"Could a humble and realistic approach to positive apologetics be sustained? In my humble opinion, there is enough room in the apologetic task to draw on the strengths from different methodologies to construct a positive, cumulative case for Christian theism. Since the gospel provides the most comprehensively plausible, logically coherent and existentially satisfying explanation of the universe and our human experience, we could rejoice in the convergence of many apologetic streams. From the classical apologists, we drink in empirical evidences that demand a verdict. From the Reformed epistemologists, we learn to trust in the Spirit’s ability to produce genuine faith apart from arguments. From the presuppositionalists, we discover that unique features of human life make sense only when interpreted through a biblical outlook. With the incarnational apologists, we live out the practical demonstration of the faith in a living, ecclesical community...."

"If the Malaysian church could thus demonstrate an alternative society that transcends ethnic, cultural, economic class and political barriers, the perception of Christianity as a Western colonial reality will be more effectively exorcised. Our apologetic should also take on board a faithful portrayal of Christ, as the Suffering Servant-King who laid aside His majesty and emptied Himself in humility to rescue and serve humanity (Matthew 10:28, Luke 22:27). The cross subverts every pretension to power by violence and de-legitimates manipulation and oppression. Although it does not guarantee innocence in its adherents, we find within the biblical meta-narrative is two inherent anti-totalizing inclinations - a radical sensitivity to suffering and God’s overarching creational intent over all, thus preventing a partisan abuse. Through the atonement of Christ, the way for reconciliation and forgiveness is made possible even for the oppressors."
-- Dave Chang

Interesting? Read the whole thing here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Compassion & Truth

Berita NECF: “The Church needs to realise that there are many Christian homosexuals struggling with their sexuality,” according to Edmund Smith, a former homosexual who now runs a ministry – Real Love Ministry (RLM) that helps gays and lesbians who have decided to leave their homosexual lifestyle.

“In fact, 70 percent of the people that we work with are Christians.” he revealed. The Church must come into the picture and work with us to help them.” Edmund observed that churches generally have a “hands-off” attitude towards homosexuality. There is therefore a great need in Malaysia for a ministry to firstly, educate and equip churches to counsel people struggling with the issue; and secondly, help those who have decided to turn away from the homosexual lifestyle.

RLM was started by Edmund and his wife, Amanda, in 1999 to fulfil these two objectives. It conducts a four-season recovery programme for its members, who comprise only gays Help for the Homosexuals and lesbians.

At each season, members face up with the issues that contribute to their homosexuality bent, and they must resolve those issues before moving to the next season. For instance, at Season 1 or the Education Season, (the first season in the programme), helps members to deal with the perception of their gender and appearance.

Once these issues are resolved, members move on to Season 2 – the Celibate Season –
where they learn how to love people of the same gender in a platonic way. By the time
members reach Season 4, they are actually ready for heterosexual relationships which will hopefully lead to marriage.

The journey of recovery is a challenging journey, and should not be travelled alone. RLM therefore assigns journey partners, called RLM Befrienders, to walk alongside its members. Currently, about 200 people are participating in RLM’s programme in Penang, Ipoh, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and Johor Baru. As membership is free, RLM depends on freewill offering and donations to finance its work.

RLM also conducts awareness programmes in churches, schools and youth groups to educate the public on homosexuality. Those who wish to invite RLM to share about
its work may contact Edmund at 016-680 9996.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Masih Keliru?

Selamat sejahtera, Encik Abdul Rahman.

Terlebih dahulu, saya ingin berterima kasih kerana rencana saudara di Utusan malaysia berkenaan "Makam Nabi Isa Yang Hilang" telah memberi pandangan bukan sahaja dari sudut pembikin filem dokumentari tersebut, malah dari pandangan penganut Islam, Kristian dan Yahudi juga. Secara saksama, ia mengimbangi dakwaan cerita sensasi yang dibesar-besarkan itu, walaupun saudara mungkin tidak berkesempatan meneliti hujah-hujah utama yang diketengahkan oleh "penemuan" tersebut seperti di sini and sini.

Walau bagaimanapun, saya perlu menujukan perhatian saudara kepada satu kesilapan yang ketara dalam rencana itu yang berkenaan "Dalam tradisi Kristian, Jesus Christ yang walaupun disalib tetapi ia dianggap tidak mati kerana setelah disimpan, baginda dinaikkan ke langit dalam apa yang disebut sebagai Resurrection".

Dalam pengertian Resurrection penganut Kristian, Jesus Christ (Nabi Isa) bukan sahaja disalib, Baginda juga wafat (meninggal dunia), dikuburkan sebelum bangkit semula dari genggaman maut pada hari yang ketiga. Pengakuan Iman Nicea yang diterima oleh semua Kristian ortodoks jelas memberitakan kepercayaan bahawa, "Demi kita, Dia (Nabi Isa) disalibkan oleh Pontius Pilatus menderita dan dikuburkan, Dan menurut Alkitab bangkit semula pada hari ketiga".

Ia amat berbeza dari teori 'resuscitation' di mana Nabi Isa hanya tidak sedarkan diri selepas disalib. Sewaktu peristiwa penyaliban, askar Rom memastikan kematian Baginda dengan menembusi tubuhnya dengan lembing . (Yohanes 19:34)

Oleh itu, saya berharap saudara sudi membuat pembetulan penting ini dalam rencana tersebut supaya memberi gambaran yang lebih tepat untuk tradisi Kristian.

Terima kasih terlebih dahulu atas usaha baik saudara.

Yang benar

Review: The Secret Message of Jesus

The Secret Message of Jesus
In light of the recent “Quiet Revolution of Hope” conversations, I thought now might be a good time to look at McLaren’s latest book. I know (I’m thinking it too!): not another review? But nevertheless, I will plough on and hope that the following will turn out be of some use to you, and if not, you can always discard it.

Some preamble is probably necessary. Firstly, this is NOT a review of the “emerging church” movement/conversation. Nor is this a review of Brian McLaren’s other books; in any case, this is the first McLaren book I have read. Obvious points, I know, but in light of the occasional silly comments that come up whenever McLaren's name is mentioned, they do need to be made.

My exposure to Brian McLaren
My first exposure to McLaren was during my A-Level days, when I was googling around on Christians and postmodernity, and stumbled across an article by him at Next-Wave. I had never heard of either him or the emerging church then. I later read a review of “The Church on the Other Side” in Kairos Magazine by Ps. Sivin, but it didn’t register then that both Brian McLarens were one and the same! Since then, I have had the opportunity to read various articles by him, as well as his contribution to The Church in Emerging Culture. When I heard that he was coming out with a book about the kingdom of God, I thought this was the ideal book to pick up to see what the fuss was all about.

Read on!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Quotes on Vocation

Fellow Agora Bloggers,

I'm in Malaysia for a brief visit and am planning to attend CDPC on Sunday - hope to have a chance to meet some of you. It'll be great to put a voice and face to the names. I've come across a few quotes on vocation by notable Christian leaders (mostly old, dead guys) that I thought were interesting (HT: Washington Institute). You're probably familiar with some of them but they offer timeless wisdom and are worth revisiting:

On whether our daily work is "spiritual":

"...The work of a Beethoven, and the work of a charwoman, become spiritual on precisely the same condition, that of being offered to God, of being done humbly "as to the Lord." This does not, of course, mean that it is for anyone a mere toss-up whether he should sweep rooms or compose symphonies. A mole must dig to the glory of God and a cock must crow..."

C.S Lewis, Weight of Glory

"...A cobbler, a smith, a farmer, each has the work and office of his trade, and yet they are all alike consecrated priests and bishops, and every one by means of his own work or office must benefit and serve every other, that in this way many kinds of work may be done for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the community, even as all the members of the body serve one another..."

Martin Luther
(aka the Reformation Guy)

On how we are to work:

"...We know that men were created for the express purpose of being employed in labor of various kinds, and that no sacrifice is more pleasing to God than when every man applies diligently to his own calling, and endeavors to live in such a manner as to contribute to the general advantage..."

John Calvin (aka Mr. Five Pointer)

On the quality of work we should produce:

"...No piety in the worker will compensate for work that is not true to itself…. work must be good work before it can call itself God’s work..."

Dorothy Sayers

On Christian discipleship and work

Not an old, dead guy, but ever insightful is Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC. In a paper on how a church can successfully engage a city culture, he writes about the need to integrate work and faith. He also says this:

You can't just disciple people on how to be Christians in their private lives (e.g. prayer, witnessing, Bible study). Center-city people don't have much of a "private life." If you are in finance, or art, or acting or medicine, your vocation dominates your life and your time. Discipleship must include how to be distinctively Christian within your job, including how to handle the particular temptations and ethical quandaries, and how to produce work in one's own field from a distinctly Christian world-view.

How are you distinctly Christian within your job?
What does it mean to produce work in our field of work from a distinctly Christian world-view?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Melolong Di Depan Makam

Orang Kristen Harus Berdepan Dengan Fakta Dalam Dokumentari The Discovery
Karya: Gregory Koukl
Terjemahan: Hedonese aka Dave Chang Wei Hao

Belum lagi pun Dokumentari “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” (Makam Yesus Yang Hilang) disiarkan, sudah ramai orang Kristen yang cemas. Cuma kerana ada yang mencadangkan bahawa rangka tulang Yesus (Nabi Isa) telah dijumpai dalam kotak batu kapur, ramai penganut naik darah dengan gaya “jangan-kelirukan-saya-dengan-kenyataan”.

Nampaknya, ramai penganut Kristen tidak perlu tengok bukti sebelum membuat keputusan. Apabila satu banci di laman web bertanya, “Percayakah anda dokumentari “Makam Yesus”, yang menolak kebangkitan Kristus?”, 97% menjawab: “Tidak”. Penilaian ini dibuat tiga hari sebelum rancangan itu disiarkan. Kepercayaan membuta tuli lebih senang, bukan? Sebenarnya, langsung tidak payah berhadapan dengan para pengkritik.

Lepas itu, ada pula para pembuli yang menuntut Discovery supaya membatalkan rancangan fitnah ini. Sebuah organisasi Kristen menulis surat yang begini:

“Saya berasa marah dengan cubaan Discovery Channel memperkecilkan dan merendahkan maruah agama Kristen dengan tuduhan bahawa ia berdasarkan dusta semata-mata. Sukar saya percaya bahawa Discover Channel berani membuat dokumentari begini tentang agama lain. Hakikatnya anda mungkin telah menolong kita menyedarkan berjuta-juta orang Kristen akan ketaksuban anda yang serong terhadap agama Kristen. Mungkin mereka tidak akan berdiam diri lagi.”

Tindakan mengerasi orang lain sangat memalukan saya, sebagai pengikut Kristus, dan ia harus membimbangkan setiap penganut Kristen yang bertimbang rasa. Bukan sahaja ia berundur dari cabaran sah yang perlu disahut, tingkah laku begini bersifat tertutup.

Lihatlah, walaupun anda sudah yakin kepada Alkitab, isu ini masih belum selesai bagi berjuta-juta orang lain yang berminat dengan kepercayaan anda dan masih menunggu jawapan yang berakal budi dari kita.

Ada banyak sebab munasabah untuk kita pertikaikan kesimpulan dokumentari tersebut, tapi tiada yang akan tahu jika orang Kristen sendiri menyembunyi di sebalik tembok kubu. Setelah menonton dokumentari itu, beberapa masalah muncul di minda:

Para sarjana sudah menemui makam-makam ini lebih dari 25 tahun yang lampau. Ada sebab mereka tidak memandang serius nama-nama tertulis di atas kotak rangka ini. Hanya tiga nama mempunyai kaitan dengan Alkitab: Yesus, Mary dan Joseph. Dan kumpulan nama ini, dari sudut statistik , bukan luar biasa. Pada hakikat, anehnya jika makam sesebuah keluarga tidak mengandungi nama-nama tersebut, memandangkan kegunaan mereka amat umum. Sekurang-kurangnya empat kotak rangka pernah dijumpai yang tertulis “Yesus, anak Joseph”, dan satu perempat wanita masa itu bernama Mary, jadi ada kemungkinan besar sesebuah makam ada kombinasi nama begini. Bagaimana pula tentang hubungan Yesus dengan nama-nama lain? Di sini, spekulasi yang liar tentang hubungan Yesus hanyalah suatu mainan agak-mengagak.

Keseluruhan hujah berdasarkan makna kebarangkalian ‘statistik’ kelompok nama-nama itu. Jika Yesus (Nabi Isa) telah berkahwin, dan jika Yesus bernikah dengan wanita bernama Mariamne, dan jika Mariamne itu nama samaran bagi Mary Magdalena, dan jika Yesus ada adik bernama Matthew, dan jika Yesus juga ada anak bernama Judas, dan jika rangka tulang James yang terkenal itu milik James, adik lelaki Yesus, maka anda dapati semua ahli keluarga Yesus di dalam makam yang sama. Akan tetapi, sudah banyak sangat andaian “jika” yang perlu dibuat tanpa sokongan bukti di sini.

Walaupun ia digelar “Makam Keluarga Yesus”, langsung tiada bukti kukuh bahawa mana-mana kononnya “ahli keluarga” tersebut mempunyai hubungan biologi. Satu-satunya ujian DNA yang dibuat – antara Yesus dan Miriamne – memberi kesimpulan negatif. Izinkan saya ulang lagi: Ujian DNA membuktikan tiada hubungan biologi. Itulah fakta. Yang selebihnya andaian spekulasi.

Dokumentari mendakwa, “Yesus dan Mary telah bernikah, mengikut cadangan bukti DNA”. Tidak masuk akal. Fikirkanlah. Mungkinkah ujian DNA membuktikan seseorang itu sudah kahwin? Dalam kes ini, bukti DNA menunjukkan bahawa Yesus dan Mary tiada hubungan biologi dari ibu yang sama, bukannya bukti hubungan suami isteri. Pada hakikatnya, Mariamne mungkin isteri mana-mana orang lelaki lain di dalam makam itu, atau pun, beliau mungkin langsung tidak mempunyai suami juga. Ujian DNA tidak “mencadangkan” apa-apa yang didakwa.

Para penyelidik mendakwa mereka hanya cuba mengaitkan bintik-bintik bukti yang bertaburan. Baik. Tapi, kenapa harus mereka mengaitkan bintik dengan cara ini? Izinkan saya menjelaskan sebabnya. Kerana cara itu sahaga dapat menceritakan kisah sensasi yang mereka inginkan. Ada banyak cara sah yang lain untuk menyambung bintik-bintik itu – teori yang jauh lebih munasabah daripada teori dokumentari tersebut. Tetapi ia tidak memberi cerita sensasi yang mereka iklankan. Sememangnya, bukankah cara ini sahaja yang mampu mencetus berita hangat yang melariskan jualan buku?

Yesus berasal dari keluarga miskin di Nazareth, bukannya dari golongan kaya atau kelas pertengahan di Jerusalem. Jadi, makam keluarga ini jenis makam yang salah, serta beralamat di dalam kota yang salah.

Dokumentari juga mendakwa Yesus bertutur secara kod. Dakwaan ini palsu. Yesus mengajar dengan cerita ibarat, seperti ramai pendita pada zaman itu, bukannya kod yang sukar ditafsirkan. Mereka juga kata Maria Magdalena adalah pengikut Yesus yang paling dipercayai. Akan tetapi, anda perlu tunggu 400 tahun sebelum bukti begini muncul dalam tulisan Gnostik yang kononnya rekod sejarah. Mereka juga mendakwa ahli keluarga Yesus dihukum bunuh kerana Beliau adalah waris takhta Israel. Ini fiksi semata-mata. Namun, perhatikan apa yang cuba mereka kecapi. Semua ketidaktepatan dan cubaan membesar-besarkan cerita dongeng ini menjadikan sesuatu yang sebenarnya karut berbunyi seakan-akan lebih munasabah.

Kita memiliki dua gambaran yang berbeza tentang apa yang telah terjadi kepada tubuh Yesus dari Nazareth 2000 tahun yang lalu. Yang pertama berdasarkan artifak kotak rangka tulang, dan gambaran kedua berdasarkan dokumen sejarah dari Matius, Markus, Lukas, Petrus dan Paulus. Ya, ia bukannya “sains jitu” tapi sekiranya yang lain-lain tidak berubah, gambaran yang mana satu membekalkan maklumat yang lebih tepat, kotak rangka tulang atau rekod tulisan? Jelasnya, rekod tulisan.

Kebangkitan Yesus dari maut adalah sebahagian dari kesaksian terawal pengikut-pengikutnya. Menurut dokumentari, saksi-saksi yang sama ini tahu tempat Yesus dikebumikan secara rahsia di Jerusalem. Kenapa ramai antara mereka mati demi melindungi dusta yang mereka sudah ketahui? Tidak masuk akal. Tapi teori sebegini yang mesti anda percaya jika mengambil serius kesimpulannya.

Jika kepercayaan Kristen bergantung kepada fakta sejarah kebangkitan Yesus, sepertimana diajar Paulus, maka pengikut Kristus tidak harus berundur atau bersembunyi di sebalik kepercayaan yang membuta-tuli sambil bermuka marah.

Tidak, jika anda seorang Kristen, tidak harus anda lari, sungut, jerit atau membuat perangai. Tapi, anda harus berterima kasih kepada Discovery Channel kerana memberi anda peluang untuk masuk padang and menjaringkan gol kemenangan yang mudah ini.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Humility is Being a Good Listener

Being a good listener is an indispensable skill in negotiating relationships of any kind, in any arena. In a world where we are encouraged to make our points by raising the volume of our discourse, it's a sad reality that listening is now a lost virtue.

Recently, I've become convinced of the need to grow in the seemingly simple practice of listening. I discovered an article from John Piper that proved particularly helpful to me as I pondered my deficiencies in this area. If you struggle as I do, please read the article in entirety but here are a couple of nuggets to whet your appetite.

"It is arrogant to answer before you hear. Humility does not presume that it knows precisely what a person is asking until the questioner has finished asking the question."

"Proverbs 18:13 says it is our “folly” to answer before we hear. That is, it will make us a fool. One reason for this is that almost all premature answers are based on thinking we know all we need to know. But that is “foolish.” Our attitude should be: What can I learn from this question? The fool thinks he knows all he needs to know. "

From this, I'm concluding that being a good listener isn't just a matter of courtesy, it's a mark of humility.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Real Love Ministry

Edmund Smith will be discussing how the church could minister to friends who have homosexual orientation, and practical ways in which we could demonstrate love and truth.

NECF: "Edmund lived a homosexual lifestyle from 1983 to 1994. He was born-again in 1994 after he rejected homosexuality. Edmund got married in 1996 to a wonderful wife, Amanda. They moved to Singapore in 1997 as God led them there. From 1997 to 1999, Edmund and Amanda, both went under the teachings & leadership in CHOICES: Exodus International gay ministry. CHOICES is a ministry under Church of Our Savior, Singapore. When they left CHOICES in 1999, they went on to reach out to their gay and lesbian friends and that was the birth of "Real Love Ministry (RLM)". Read more at"

Venue: City Discipleship Presbyterian Church
Date: 18 March 2007 (Sunday afternoon)
Time: 1.30 pm

Thoughts on the emerging Ossuary Debate.

You have probably heard the accounts and reports of the finding of the alleged “Tomb of Jesus”. I am not going to write a defense or case here for either side of this debate, but I will give you things to consider as you see this unfold over the next few weeks or months.

Foundational presupposition – it’s not a hoax.

Now remember, when we talk of this ossuary, we presuppose that it’s not another hoax. Do remember that there
have been archeological mishaps and frauds in the past (everything from fake paleontological finds to Holy artifacts) and some scholars are now saying that the James ossuary we heard of more than a year ago was an authentic ossuary with a later forged inscription of James name on it.

A case so compelling till you hear the counter arguments.

It has been said by wise philosophers that an argument is so compelling till you have heard the counter argument. Remember your economics class where socialism seemed so good till you heard the capitalist critique of it or vise versa? The fact is that many times when we follow the evidence, we have good arguments for both sides and end up having to make a choice of most plausible rather than from absolute proof – since such proof requires measurements and empiricism that we just can’t get sometimes from matters of history. Sometimes however, Science catches up over time and empirical measures can be obtained from new technology,
like the sequencing of the Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA has pretty much proven (though debate still exist for a small few) the hypothesis that modern humans arose in Africa before migrating to Europe and replacing the Neanderthal population with little or no interbreeding.

I suspect (with my present ignorance on the matter) that the complexity of the evidence will be compelling both ways and reach a point with no more qualifying experiments to break the stalemate between the arguments for and against. Such stalemates have left some cases in history and archeology unresolved,
like the Getty Kuros, but we don’t get so worked up on them because of the low level of vested interest.

So my advice here is that everyone, should hear arguments from both sides, and be left to make up their God given minds – and its our Christian responsibility to make sure that the counter arguments are put out there where people will see them.

Epistemological choice we make on the questions of religion.

You will hear of the use of statistics in this debate (which we must not be too quick to dismiss) and how those inscriptions have to high a probability of the name pool to be talking about anyone else than the Christian Jesus. The thing is, the stats can go both ways, because since it is a probability, it could be that this case is from the minority amount and not the majority. We simply need a lot more test to supplement the use of the statistics. The fact is, you make a choice in subscribing to a theory of what is more plausible from the evidence presented to you – but you have to be very aware of the fact that your making a choice.

Religion is not motivated by rationale alone.

I repeated myself again about the fact that we make a choice of what to believe with the risk of looking like a Postmodern agnostic! But I do so to lay a foundation for this important point, that our decisions on the matters of religion are not motivated by rationale alone. The question of motivation is crucial, as it works to affect our industriousness in examining the evidence, the equality of honest evaluation we give to both sides of the argument and so forth. Motivation can even blind us subconsciously to compelling evidence before our eyes.

I am not saying that this matter will never be resolved; it could be that the evidence is so compelling for one side that any honest person will see it clearly. But no matter how compelling the case will be, there will be some people who would not budge from their position, and when we engage this battle, we have to learn to respect them and let them be.

Also I think its best at some point to resolve this matter for what it is – if it’s a historical issue, let’s leave our emotional baggage and religious zeal aside and engage the arguments and matter with professionalism and with clearly defined historical tools and analysis.

The economics of a controversy.

Lastly, do keep an eye on the economic paradigm of this controversy. Dan Brown has proven the profitability of this genre of media (books, documentaries, movie rights, etc.) and given the cultural climate of the USA, where many feel that the nation has been taken captive by religious zealots (sometimes paranoia, sometimes reality) – there are both monetary and non monetary benefits to shaking up Christianity. One has to wonder if James Cameron has been successful since Titanic, or if the actual motivation for this documentary of theirs was the great money that will follow this great controversy. On the counter side, he could be doing this from a passion of the truth – but the statistics are doubtful I suspect.

Amazing Grace

With the launch of the movie Amazing Grace , evangelicals wud hopefully catch a vision of how the power of the gospel transformed the world. The great abolitionist William Wilberforce showed us that faith is not escapism, but a great force of liberation.

Here is how you can be an agent of change in your own circle of influence...

"During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, William Wilberforce and many of his friends resided in Clapham, England — a neighborhood within the city limits of London. In addition to leading the fight for abolition, this group of friends frequently gathered together to discuss the importance of reforming society as a whole. They also contributed to many worthy causes such as aiding the poor and preventing animal cruelty.

What did the Clapham group accomplish? Here’s a short list:

Started or participated in 69 different charities;
Created the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals;
Created the Society of the Betterment of the Poor;
Organized and distributed petitions to abolish African slavery;
Transformed and led the discussion on social reform in England.

What neighborhood do you live in? Who are your friends? What issues are you passionate about?

As the Clapham group demonstrates, when people work together to discuss social justice, much can be accomplished. Not only did this group play a pivotal role in the abolition of slavery, but they enacted many reforms to improve British society as a whole. Instituting a modern day Clapham Circle network is an important part of The Amazing Change Campaign.

It is easy to create a Clapham Circle. Start by getting together with a group of friends or neighbors once or twice a month to discuss slavery and other important social justice issues...

After facilitating discussion within your Circle, the next step is to find ways to turn your discussions into community action. Organize a volunteer activity for the members of your circle, encourage members to sign The Petition to End Modern Day Slavery, and join with other Clapham Circles to raise funds for the anti-slavery cause. You can also check our online community to find Clapham Circles in your area that you can join.

Are you already part of a group that gathers to discuss issues of social justice? Contact us at if you want to align your group with our national Clapham Circle network!

Join This Campaign To Carry Out Wilberforce's Vision of Mercy and Justice TODAY.

PS:Dun have friends? join the Agora lor...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Case For A 'Secular' State

The Total Truth study group (nicknamed King's Brigade) had our second get-together last Saturday, I was tremendously encouraged to see the energy and interest shown by the participants. One of the recurring issue that comes forth is how do we present a comprehensive Christian worldview in a pluralistic world without sounding like a Christian version of PAS??

Very often, people misread the term "total truth" to mean absolute or worse, totalizing truth. When Schaeffer used the term, he meant something like "comprehensive, all encompassing" truth, meaning we dun put religion in a box and say it is true in my heart, but is irrelevant when it comes to other areas of life ie ethics, business, science, governance etc

In Nancy Pearcey's context, she is writing to encourage christians to engage a secular society that seeks to weed out the sacred... In our context, we have a different issue where religion and the state are too close (not too separate) so much so tat politicians exploit religion for personal gain and religion uses politics to curtail differing views...

Can a Christian support a qualified secular state and remain consistent in our belief that the Christian faith is a comprehensive way of life? I believe so, provided we are clear on what that means.

Kam Weng posted a helpful way of framing the issue here

"The qualified-secular status of the Malaysian Federal Constitution is been challenged in current debates on religion and society. Some Muslim activists reject the provision for the separation between state and religion since it does not grant due recognition to Islam as the religion of the majority. It is granted that religion (this includes all religions and not just Islam) is an integrated worldview and way of life. As such, practicing religion entails engagement with social life. It is futile, if not wrong to dichotomize these two spheres of human activities.

When we talk about separation between Church/Mosque and State, we are not suggesting a dichotomy between religion and society as spheres of human activity. We are suggesting the need to separate religious institutions from state institutions. We are calling for institutional separation. The separation is necessary both to protect state authorities from exploiting religion for their own political agenda and to prevent religious authorities from exploiting the state apparatus for their own (sectarian) religious agenda."

Betulkah Itu Makam Yesus?

karya dari Darrel Bock
terjemahan dari Chang Wei Hao

Semalam, saya telah menonton semua laporan berkaitan dengan makam Talpiot. Umat Kristian tidak perlu risau sangat. Beberapa wakil Kristian nampaknya bimbang, seolah-olah menjerit di depan pemberita dalam lapuran khas Discovery itu. Mungkin sebabnya mereka belum tengok lagi rancangan itu dan perlu mengulas tentang isu tersebut, seperti menembak dalam kegelapan. Setelah meneliti rancangan dokumentari itu, hujah-hujahnya mengandungi pelbagai masalah yang boleh dikupas dengan rasa sabar.

Contohnya, kita tidak perlu ijazah bidang biologi untuk mengetahui jika seseorang menguji DNA anda, ia tentunya tidak sepadan dengan kebanyakan orang yang lain. Jadi, hujah DNA yang disebut dalam rancangan itu tidak membuktikan apa-apa, hanya memberi kita suatu keputusan yang sudah dijangka. Seorang pakar Antropologi Forensik berkata semalam dalam rancangan Anderson Cooper 360, ia bukan bukti yang seberapa. Hasil ujian DNA itu tidak membuktikan apa-apa yang penting.

Kita tidak perlu ijazah bidang geografi juga untuk mengetahui bahawa jika keluarga Yesus berasal dari Galilee, kenapa pula makam keluarga mereka berada di Jerusalem? Dua permerhatian mudah ini dapat membantu kita kupas kelemahan hujah dalam rancangan dokumentari ini.

Hujah dari kebarangkalian statistik itu bergantung kepada ANDAIAN bahawa makam Talpiot itu makam sebuah keluarga. Tapi satu-satunya kesimpulan yang mungkin kita dapati dari ujian DNA yang tidak sepadan ialah ia bukannya sebuah makam keluarga. Apa kata sekiranya makam ini tidak mengandungi sebuah keluarga, tapi hanya orang-orang dari keluarga yang berlainan dalam wilayah yang sama? Atau pun makam ini dikongsi oleh beberapa keluarga? Semua soalan asas sebegini adalah sebahagian dari proses pengajian sejarah.

Dan kebenaran bagi ‘senario’ yang mana-mana satu pun akan meyangkal dakwaan sensasi bahawa inilah makam Yesus (Nabi Isa). Jadi marilah kita menanya beberapa soalan biasa ini bagi mendedahkan andaian-andaian tersirat dalam usaha memperolehi nombor ‘statistik’ ini yang mudah dicabar. Seterusnya, analisis kebarangkalian tidak bermakna kerana apa yang disukat itu bukannya apa yang diandaikan.

Maka tiada sebab untuk melolong atau menjerit, hanya memberi soalan yang bagus. Asingkan fakta dari tafsirannya. Fakta: kita menemui makam yang mengandungi sepuluh kotak berisi rangka tulang dari abad pertama Selepas Masehi. Ada nama tertulis di atas kotak dan dua daripada mereka (satu bernama Yesus dan yang lain bernama Mary) tidak mempunyai hubungan biologi. Itu SAHAJA yang kita ketahui dari rancangan tersebut. Yang lain itu tafsiran.

Para penerbit rancangan khas itu kata mereka inginkan lebih siasatan dan mencari kebenaran. Sambutlah cabaran ini, kata saya. Fakta-fakta yang timbul akan menunjukkan bahawa makam Talpiot tiada kaitan langsung dengan keluarga Yesus. Yang ada hanyalah sebuah makam abad pertama yang mengandungi beberapa kotak rangka tulang, yang membantu kita fahami nama dan amalan zaman itu.

Mari kita meneliti isu-isu budaya zaman kita pula. Ya, usaha ‘hentam’ kepercayaan Kristiani makin lumrah dalam kerakusan mengejar wang ringgit dan pujaan ramai bagi sesetengah orang. Mudah kita sebagai umat Kristian berasa kecewa. Saya memberitahu murid-murid di seminari supaya mengambil ‘suntikan vaksin’ sampainya Hari Natal ataupun Easter kerana lazimnya amalan menghantam Kristian pada musim cuti. Jangan terperanjat dengan corak duniawi yang dijangka ini.

Harus juga kita mencabar motif HarperSanFrancisco dalam terbitannya yang sentiasa ‘menghentam’ kepercayaan Kristian.

Tapi, penting sekali, kita perlu dana wang untuk menerbit dokumentari berkualiti tinggi dengan cendekiawan Kristian yang masyhur. Pokoknya, orang umum dapat membuat perbandingan dan lihat sendiri kelemahan hujah-hujah sensasi sebegini.

Mari kita menyahut cabaran untuk memberi pandangan yang sebaliknya. Industri penerbitan Kristian berbillion dollar nilainya. Usaha sebegini tidak memberi kesan atas keuntungan mereka (adakah faktor duit yang paling penting dalam isu ini?)

Hakikatnya, hanya 0.2% wang dijana oleh industri ini boleh mendokong usaha terbitan rancangan khas setiap tahun. Jika syarikat penerbitan Kristian menderma dengan murah hati, kita dapat menonjolkan motif yang berdasarkan kebenaran, dan bukannya keuntungan. Mungkin juga kita tidak harus berbangga dengan organisasi seperti badan Penyiaran Agama Negara [National Religious Broadcasters] kerana tidak melangkah ke hadapan untuk menyahut cabaran budaya ini? Mungkin mereka atau badan sepertinya harus menggembleng tenaga yang padu untuk mempertahankan iman. Kenapa tidak syarikat Kristian besar mengumpul sumber kewangan seperti rangkaian penyiaran kabel lain dan menerbitkan dokumentari berkualiti untuk tontonan televisyen?

Itulah cabaran yang saya berikan. Hentikan jeritan dan rungutan. Hasilkanlah sesuatu berkualiti tinggi yang menonjolkan tahap cendekiawan berwibawa, supaya budaya kita dapat melihat kisah sebenar dengan lebih menyeluruh.

Mungkin usaha sebegini akan menghasilkan sesuatu yang boleh dipercayai dan bermutu.
Inilah usaha yang diperlukan jika umat Kristan serius melibatkan diri dalam perbincangan sejagat. Renungkanlah.