good books
On the basis of the principle that “form must follow function” we will review this week an article rather than a book. This may stretch somewhat the definition of “Good Books” but that does not cause a flutter with our BTW editorial team: we are more concerned with fulfilling our objective of introducing our readers to a good “read” or “listening” etc. rather than following rigid rules. And by “good” we sometimes mean a critical reading that hopefully will nudge us closer to the truth. (QSH)

The feature article in the June 30, 2003 , issue of TIME magazine dealt with an important and  sensitive issue: “Should Christians Convert Muslims?” The bias of the editorial team is revealed by the subtle innuendoes here and there in the article as, for example, in the description, “Crusaders for Christ” on page three. This touches a raw nerve both to Muslims and Christians. To us as Christians the Crusades of the late Middle Age were a blot in the history of Christianity: they should never have happened and they were endorsed by Catholic Christianity. They served no useful spiritual purpose, were not biblically-based, and degenerated into brigandry, murder and wholesale disaster, as in the case of the Children’s Crusade in 1212 led by a French shepherd boy, Stephen, and later by Nicholas, another boy from Cologne . Thousands of misled children, egged on by equally misled adults, joined a supposed pilgrimage to Jerusalem . They were killed or sold as slaves and suffered other horrific experiences. Our Muslim friends, of course, find plenty of fuel for just criticism in this sad episode of history.

One of the rules of responsible journalism is the employment of fair criticism. That does not seem to be the case in the TIME article. At a time when we are at pains to distinguish militant Muslims from peace-loving Muslims, it is equally important to see that the sentiments expressed by “Barbara”, a missionary clad in dark burqa at the start of the article, are not representive of a sizeable number of Christians who are against the use of both deception and extravagant statements in conversion. An example of the former is the mention of entering a mosque to pray against Islam and bind the evil powers while other Muslims are praying to Allah: that is totally unacceptable in the light of the biblical injunction to live peaceably where possible with all men. “Peaceably” does not mean that we have to accept the beliefs of others and incorporate them into our own set of beliefs. We recognize that there are fundamental differences and these cannot be glossed over. But we live in a multi-religious society and there must be respect shown to those who believe differently from us.

 An example of an extravagant statement is the statement  by the US Attorney General John Ashcroft that “Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you.” Later Ashcroft explained that he was referring only to Muslim terrorists. But therein lies the problem. A powerful statement like this gives the excuse for someone to pounce upon Christianity, lift it out of context and use it in a wrong sense. The harm has been done and the cleavage between Muslims and and Christians is driven in deeper.

 A picture is painted of Christians who will stop at nothing in their attempt to preach the Gospel to every tribe and nation. True, the thought of millions of unsaved, not only among the Muslims but also in other faiths, going into a godless eternity feeds the evangelical angst for a more effective Gospel ministry within “the 10/40 window” in the northern latitudes. But what I find sadly missing is the fact that conversions are also happening in the reverse as Christians in certain countries are being won back to their former religions. No amount of prohibitions through legal sanctions, fatwahs (written religious comments on some Quranic teaching), or jihads will be able to eradicate conversion. Ultimately what we hope can happen will be this: (1) when writing about religious belief other than one’s own, we will strive to be as fair as possible and not take extreme examples as normative. To be fair to the writers of the series of TIME articles, mention was made of the harmful effect of those whose good intentions are not matched by a need to show proper respect and in the end their blunderings have hurt the cause of Christianity. (2) The Gospel is strong in itself and it is unnecessary for us to dress it up in ways that will make it more palatable to the non-Christians. Faithful preaching  of the Gospel and living it out is sufficient: God will do the rest as He  works mightily in the hearts of individuals. We do not have to act like a “bull in a china shop.” Some Christian organizations have gone too far in this and have actually prohibited their missionaries from the very work to which some are called, conversion. (3) It is sometimes better to speak less or even not at all. When God calls us to the work of mission, we are sometimes required to speak out and suffer the consequences and sometimes, like the yeast quietly working within the dough, we can simply exemplify the character of Jesus in our life. The practice of exposing everything one does is not always helpful, as for example, the TIME’s exposé of a US double agent, in “The Triple Life of a Qaeda Man”  in the same issue of TIME, (pp.42-43). The need to communicate is sometimes idolised that the net result can be detrimental to a good cause. Alas, we live in an information age and we have to deal with truth mixed with untruths and half-truths. When these are spoken often enough they become believable. It is sad.

(Reviewed by Dr Quek Swee Hwa)

 

Chapel last week was taken by Dr Douglas Milne, who continues this week on his treatment of Jesus’ Beatitudes. A combined summary of both messages will be given next week.

 

Chapel next week (July 16) will be taken by BGST alumnus,  Mr Andrew Chua Boon Chye (Dip CS, 1999). Andrew is serving currently as an Elder of The Bible Church and is responsible for child dedications, marriages, funerals, etc. at his Church. He serves also as Chairman of St Luke’s ElderCare Centre in Clementi West. All this on top of a full-time job! Thank God that Andrew is pursuing his Master’s studies at BGST.

 

News Bits

  1. SECOND SEMESTER has begun! We begin a new semester! A gentle reminder to all students to pay careful attention to their “required” courses if they intend to graduate in January next year or the year after. Some of these courses (e.g., TS101 and NT101) are being offered specifically to cater for those needing these courses to graduate.

  2. Courses commencing next week.

  • Biblical Hebrew (II) (starting Jul 14, Mon), by Dr Philip Satterthwaite.

  • The Sermon on the Mount (starting Jul 15, Tue), by Dr John Lim.

  • A Framework for Biblical Counselling (I) (starting Jul 16, Wed), by Mr Yam Keng Mun.

  • Old Testament Foundations II (starting Jul 17, Thu), By Dr Philip Satterthwaite.

  1. New Admissions. We are happy from time to time to introduce a few newly-admitted students. Most of our students start with the Dip.CS before proceeding either to our MCS or MDiv programmes. Because of the way we are structured, we have students joining BGST at different times during the calendar year. Since January 2003 we have admitted the following among others who will be introduced during the following weeks. We hope  these ‘snapshots’ will not only give you a picture of our new students but also a general profile of our students at BGST. Do uphold these in your prayers.

  •  Mr Koh How Eng (admitted for the Dip CS), from Mt Carmel B-P Church, lectures at the Ngee Ann Polytechnic. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MSc).

  • Mr Lim Yew Meng (for the Dip CS) is a helicopter pilot, a major  with the Republic of  Singapore Air Force . He graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic and is a member with Lighthouse Evangelism.

  • Ms Chua Wei Chin (for the Dip CS). Wei Chin graduated from Oxford University in English Literature (St Hildas College, BA Hons) and she is worshipping at Yishun Methodist Mission.

  • Rev Eman Kumar (for the MCS) is the Pastor of the Mt Carmel Bible-Presbyterian Church at Villivakkam, Chennai , India . He holds the BTh from the SBC and the DipTh from FEBC.

  1. Congratulations, Wilfred Leow (MDiv, BGST)! We rejoice with you and your wife on the arrival of your second child, a boy!

A Blessed Birthday to ...

Mrs Lim Eng Khin  7/7

Ms Wenny Setiawan  7/7

Ms Patricia Smith Anne  7/7

Mr Lewis Lew  8/7

Ms Angeline Ong  8/7

Mrs Lucy Lim  9/7

Mr Ho Chee Kiong  10/7

Mr Peter Jamir  10/7

Mrs Jerusha Ang  12/7

Mr Kok Kar Wing  13/7

Mrs Lee Siang Ju  13/7

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This page is updated on 9 Jul 2003 by Leong Kok Weng
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