Friday, November 21, 2014

Explaining Sin in a Chinese Context

We discussed about our conversion experience in CG today, but I didn't say much because (1) I wasn't feeling well and quite soon into the study, I felt feverish and (2) being a "third generation" Christian, my conversion story is rather boring, but I must admit I'm indeed very, very blessed.

Being born in a Christian family, I was brought up in the faith and I became very active in church, which contributed to my growth in Christ. I was uncomfortable in one phase of my life for not having a specific date of conversion like most of my friends. But I remember the very moment when I finally became convinced and settled in my heart and mind that my conversation is a journey, and that I am saved by the grace of God.

My faith journey started right when I was exposed to the faith by my parents to Sunday School to Youth Fellowship to the undertaking of my Masters Degree in Christian Studies right up to that moment of realisation where I finally felt confirmed I belong to Christ.

Interestingly, as much as Wesley's moment of warmth in the heart was in 1738 when he "experienced confirmation of his salvation by the grace of God" in a meeting room in Aldersgate Street, London, mine was when I was thinking and walking to Pustaka Sufes Book, a Christian bookshop! However, isn't it sad that I don't remember when that happened.

Anyway, during CG, some were sharing moments before their conversion where they were in conflict and most have said it was difficult for them to take it when they were told they were sinners.

In my understanding, it all has to do with the difference in the Western and Eastern culture. The mindset and worldview is so different that methods of evangelism that work well in the Western world do not work as well in the Eastern.

I have this article entitled "Explaining Sin in a Chinese Context" written by Mark Strand in the journal Missiology: An International Review (Oct 2000). He wrote it because he read "an intriguing paper by a Chinese Singaporean who argued that the key to Chinese converts remaining faithful to Christianity over the long haul was that at conversion they understood clearly the doctrine of sin". And inspired by the author, he "arrived at a method of how to teach the doctrine of sin to Chinese people."

He began by stating the fact that our understanding is very much dependant on our language. He gave a summary of the history of the Chinese translation of the Bible followed by why zui is not a very good translation of sin for the Chinese based on these three points:

1. With the group mentality of the Chinese people, wrong is determined primarily by consequent negative social implications rather than by failure to live up to some fixed standard.

2. Culturally, Chinese people believe in the original goodness of humankind.

3. To Chinese readers, zui is equivalent to breaking the laws of society or committing a crime and being a criminal.

On point #2 and #3, it's common to hear us say, "I did not kill anyone, nor have I burned [your house], I have not sinned."

His method involves teaching the biblical concept of sin accurately in two ways:

1. Talk to the Chinese about sin as missing the mark (Rom 3:23), as in the Greek word hamartia used in the New Testament, translated as sin.

2. Use the traditional Chinese concept of filial piety, where they are obligated to honour their fathers and how much more they are obligated to honour their heavenly Father, who has given them life and breath, and all things (Acts 17:25).

If you are interested to read the article, leave me a comment and I will send it to you. I am not able to post it here publicly but within the rights given, I'm allowed to send it to you for individual use.

pearlie

I got thrown into the water

The funniest thing happened today, and it happened without my knowledge. My hubby practically threw me unconsciously into the water. Unconscious because I didn't even know it and I wasn't there to defend myself.

He was at a lunch with whom he called a very staunch Calvinist, who in my opinion does not know enough about Arminianism to refute it.

My husband unknowingly tread waters he should not and got himself caught in a debate where they will be no end to it, especially if both parties do not fully know the subject on hand and when there is a lack of respect for each other's position.

I seldom want to get into a Calvinism-Arminianism debate unless it is a round table discussion, where all parties have spent enough time researching and knowing all positions, including their own. I truly respect my fellow Calvinists for I know they are intelligent people and I would also expect the same from them as I do regard myself as an Arminian who is just as smart as them.

"Staunch" Calvinists need to understand that Arminians have a reason to stand by Arminianism as much as they have a reason to stand by theirs. Find out why and exactly what we each believe in.

But I must say that most of the Calvinists I encounter do not understand what Arminianism is in its classical sense. What they say about Arminianism is actually Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism which it is definitely not. Arminianism is not well represented by most Calvinist writers. If you want to know about Arminianism, read Roger E. Olson and Thomas Oden.

Roger Olson says it well here: "We all (Calvinists and Arminians and everyone else) need to bend over backwards to be fair in our treatments of fellow evangelicals’ theologies. There’s nothing wrong with disagreement so long as it is informed and fair."

Anyway, when I found out what my husband did, I kept chiding him for throwing his wife into the water but he said all wives will float!

pearlie

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Finally, an hour



After almost 10 months of working out in the gym every workday, albeit with several breaks with the longest one during the last two weeks, I finally did an hour on the stationary bike at a moderate level of 5. For a person who practicality hated exercises and had no shame in being sedentary, I've certainly come a long way.

pearlie

Monday, November 17, 2014

Listen! We are not always right

“Everybody thinks their opinion is the right one. If they didn't, they would get a new one. ”
― Anne Lamott

"As for me, all I know is that I know nothing."
― Socrates

"Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment."
― Proverbs 9:10 (NLT)

I sensed today that it's a sad truth that everyone, including myself at times, always think we are right. Isn't it more prudent to listen and learn from others?

pearlie

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Just a thought

As much as it should not be out of convenience that we attend Sunday worship in church but with the recent change of worship time in Pantai Baptist Church (PBC), it has been tough for us.

PBC used to have two English services on Sundays: 08:45, which we used to attend and 11:00, which we deemed too late for us. It has recently been changed to one service on Saturday at 17:00 and one on Sunday at 11:00, and we have no choice but to settle for the Sunday 11:00 service.

We used to get ready in the first instance we get up from bed, first for breakfast and then immediately to church. Now, I do feel rather slow and lazy having several hours to kill before starting off to church. Church is no longer the first thing we do every Sunday, not counting breakfast, and I'm not comfortable with that.

I am a person who adapts to changes quite well but this is one change I find hard to get used to.

I don't like to do this but I'm actually thinking about visiting other churches...just a thought, just a thought...

pearlie

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Movies Galore


The Hundred-Foot Journey

Someone recommended me a movie about a Michelin star restaurant, and since I'm half a foodie (meaning I'm one, but compared to my friends, I'm actually not one), I thought I'd get a copy and watch it. Verdict? Well, it has a nice story but for me, it was spoilt by the actor Manish Dayal and his wooden acting. Helen Mitten and Om Puri were brilliant and the scenery and cinematography was fantastic. That's about it.

And since I was disappointed by it being so mediocre, I had to salvage my movie mood and ending up watching the following four movies! All of which I have but waiting for the right time to watch them.


3 Days to Kill
This did not get a good review in Rotten Tomatoes, but after The Hundred-Foot Journey, I actually did enjoy it. It was not suppose to be funny but I found it to be quite funny and sometimes quite cheesy as well. But I enjoyed watching it though.


Edge of Tomorrow
Then I decided to go for it and watch a "serious" movie, and ending up having the best movie of the night. As much as I don't really fancy Tom Cruise, I love the premise of this story and it was an excellent watch. Only that the ending, as much as I have predicted it to be so, is quite illogical, and will have quite an effect on the future of the protagonist if you ask me.


300 Rise of an Empire
And since I'm at it, I thought I might as well go the full nine yards and watch 300 Rise of an Empire as well. It was a good movie--just that it was a tad too gory for me. I actually had to watch some of the scenes from the corner of my eye. Interestingly, the blood splatters were something like those in the anime-inspired Kill Bill, but 300 is inspired by a comic series as well, though 300's blood is more artistically done. I'm impressed though by Rodrigo Santoro's portrayal of King Xerxes. He looked pretty cool fit and toned, draped in good chains and all. Though his voice were digitally lowered to suit his stature, it did not sound very natural. Well, he is not suppose to be "natural" anyway in this movie.


22 Jump Street
I finally decided to finish the day off by watching 22 Jump Street, and regretted it. Cheesy and a waste of time. Nothing much to say about it.

But what's weird is that I just realised I watched 4 out of 5 movies with numbers in the titles. Interesting. And the one without is the best of them all, and one movie I will watch several times over in the weeks to come.

pearlie

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Hymn Festival by Singapore Bible College Chorale



I attended A Hymn Festival by the Singapore Biblez College Chorale in Wesley Methodist Church Kuala Lumpur this evening, conducted by Joel Navarro.

It was a lovely and splendid time of classic and contemporary hymns from the Gregorian piece Ubi Caritas to Horatio Spafford's It is Well With My Soul to the African gospel Jesus is the Rock right up to Stuart Townend's modern hymn Speak O Lord.

I have a recording of their first song--sorry I missed the first part.



pearlie

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A horse and an owl

I have had my experience with narcissists but never have I been so frustrated with someone who is this narrow and closed minded.

I found this article from Forbes and it is interesting to see that the author Steve Berglas, has grouped them under the following animals:

1. Gorilla
"A narcissist. He won’t tell you he cannot handle the truth but, rather, will simply start beating his chest, growling, and snarling in ways designed to intimidate and then some."

2. Fox
"A form of denial that trumps the truth far better than ostrich-like hiding from it is flat-out rejection of it predicated on nothing more than personal preference. You see it all the time as “sour grapes” or, “I don’t need to hear that crap… that’s not where I live…”"

3. Horse
"There is no doubt that trying to manage someone who mounts intense resistances to facts calls to mind someone who is as “stubborn as a mule” or acts like a horse that has been led to water but refuses to drink. These equines are everywhere, bizarrely gaining more psychic satisfaction from power struggles with executives than from meeting or exceeding expectations and reaping traditional rewards."

4. Owl
"A tried-and-true technique for mounting resistances to the truth is debunking it with your own data. Folks who do this suffer hubris that’s manifest intellectually: They flaunt a self-awarded sense of wisdom and omniscience that they use to grind-down anyone who wants to show them the light. Of course, as nocturnal hunters, owls won’t tolerate that, and they hoot with laughter when you try to convince them that they are avoidant and evasive."

5. Skunk
"Often when attempting to confront insecure people with the truth, they spray you with a stink that is as, if not more potent, than the one expelled by a skunk."

The person I was dealing with, he came off as both a horse and an owl.

With the horse, Berglas said, "If you fight these neigh-saying critters [forgive me] head-on, you cannot win. Your only hope of stimulating the desired cognizance of what is right and proper is to admit defeat and abandon them," and that was exactly what I wanted to do but should I not show some brotherly love.

And with the owl, Berglas said, "Every owl I have worked for was vastly more intelligent than they seemed to be when haughtily refuting facts, and I knew that from the lofty perches they put themselves on I, a mere pedestrian, would never be able to help them. Which is why the only way I was able to help owls was to admit defeat and call upon an external advisor—a senior “owl” from their field—capable of having a birds of a feather heart to heart discussion with them," and that was also exactly what I thought I would do!

Is there no hope?

However, having said all that, I shall now have a disclaimer that in no circumstance will I not say that I am not like any of the above animals. I am after all part of the fallen human race who needs the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only he saves us from our depraved nature.

pearlie

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Using Waze

I have been driving my son to work for his Work Experience Programme for almost two weeks now. His office is in the heart of the city and it takes about one and a half hours to get him there!



I am now a regular Waze user. I used to only switch it on for directions but now I put it on every time I get behind the wheel because it gives me a good gauge on the traveling time and the different routes I can take.

But the interesting thing was this: almost every time when I use it on our drive to his office, Waze sent us through a variety of routes and for someone who is horrible in navigation and road directions, I really get to learn new routes.

Anyway, his two-week long programme will end tomorrow, being his last day of work. I hope he has managed to get a good feel of what it is, what it means, and what it takes to have a job.

pearlie

Monday, November 10, 2014

Meetings, meetings, meetings



I had four back-to-back meetings today from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, the first time without a break ever since I started work here. Actually, come to think of it, the first time ever.

And now that I've moved from consulting to corporate, all I keep ending up in are meetings.

pearlie
Source: Tom Fishburne

Sunday, November 09, 2014

World Without End (mini-series)



I finally managed to watch World Without End, the mini-series. It was quite a long while ago when I read the book and I do not remember much of what I read. As such, it was quite an enjoyable watch.

The plot was well paced for the eight-part series, and the development of the characters quite well done, and well played by the actors.





For one, the characterisation of Godwyn and his mother, Petranilla was very interesting. I'm amazed at how malicious and evil they can be, how they can justify lies and murders with religion, how they can justify their evil acts through which they obtain what they think is their right and privilege.



Of all the characters, the character development of King Edward III was the best. I had expected more from Merthin, but sadly he was quite disappointing. The king was more interesting as he struggled to first remove himself from his mother's apron, to take his rightful position as king, and finally to grow and mature in his reign.



The other character whom I really like was Gwenda. She's the only one with gumption and enough guts for a woman to outdo a man.

All in all, it was good entertainment, although I can't get through with the extent of evil some people can go to, but sadly that can be quite a reality in life.

pearlie

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Interstellar



My hubby got home early this morning because his weekly golf game was a no-go as it was raining heavily. On a separate note, the fact it was raining this morning was really amusing to me because I actually told my colleagues yesterday that even though it is the raining season now, and even though it may rain in the mornings, it most probably will not. And it has to rain the very next, this morning! It is like God showing me who is God. Oops...

Anyway, my hubby got home early and suggested we go to the cinema and watch Interstellar. I'm glad we did--the movie was downright spectacular.

I did mention before that even though I am in the midst of two boys who are science fiction fans, and even if I don't mind it, I do not like it that much if it gets too technical.

But Interstellar has the people touch and the drama that really drew me into the story of the father and his daughter. I was so immersed in it and unlike most movies where I can mostly figure out what will happen next, this is one movie where I was held in anticipation right from the beginning as the plot unfolded itself.

However, talking about not liking it too technical, my hubby just related to me from an article where it was stated that Christopher Nolan had to dumb down the dialogue so that audiences will not get lost in the story! Well, I suppose this won him a larger mass of fans and positive reviews.

I am now a fan (and yes, I like it dumbed down) and this will definitely be one of those movies I will watch again and again.

pearlie

Friday, November 07, 2014

I've now done a full circle

I had an interesting day today because for once I was on the other side of a proposal meeting. I was on the consultant side before, bringing proposals to the prospective clients, whereas today, I was the client, taking a look at the presentations of three prospective vendors.

My take-away from this experience are these three points, which is really a no-brainer at all:
1. The expectation from the first vendor who presents is very high. I had extremely high expectations from the first vendor I met, but it was a letdown, bringing me to my next point.
2. The professionalism of the vendor counts a whole lot. The familiarity of the vendor on the subject matter count a whole lot more. You have to really know your stuff, and you need to give me the confidence that you can solve my problem and bring solutions.
3. You have to keep to the point, and even if you want to be creative and give me something fresh, it must hit the nail in the head. And this was the fault of one of the vendors. They wanted to be different but they failed to keep to scope and where they were on scope, they fell short.

This was interesting also because I had dinner with a good friend yesterday evening when I found that she is currently working with my ex-colleagues from the consulting firm I was in before.

She also described to me in brief what happened during the proposal meetings presented by the Big-4 firms, two of which were represented by my ex-colleagues. One lost because they just did not impress and did not seem to know what they were talking about. The other won the deal because they nailed every questions the client had even before they were asked.

It was intriguing for me to hear her stories, opinions and feelings as I had never been on the client side before. And today, seated on this side of the game, even though on a much, much smaller project compared to hers, I had a sense of satisfaction having completed a full circle as far as my own experience in this area is concerned.

pearlie

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Roger E Olson's Blog

I can't remember whether or was a Calvinist who inadvertently introduced me to Roger E. Olson's blog or I have found it myself, but found it I did and it is an excellent find.

It comes highly recommended and so far here are a few of my favourite posts:

What’s Wrong with Calvinism?

Reading Is Fundamental (And Not Reading Is a Recipe for Failure)

Arminian Theology: Prevenient Grace and Total Depravity (Including a Review of a New Book about Prevenient Grace)

What Is a “Spirit-filled” and “Spirit-led” Church?
Part 1 and Part 2

(The only complaint I have are the many unnecessary and unbecoming advertisements and sponsored articles that accompany the blog.)

pearlie

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Ignorance

We know not what we do not know
Oblivious we to life's mystery
We listen not what we ought to hear
We see not what we ought to see
The gold we hold so dear to heart
Is it gold? I say it is, you don't?
You hold to yours and I to mine
We seat ourselves on our own throne

We think we know what we know
Unawares we are to time's eternity
We think we hear what we hear
We think we see what we see
The gold we know but really do we?
We guard them with our mind's frailty
But so vast, so utterly vast it is
Beyond what we can ever think it to be

All rights reserved © 2014 Pearlie Ng

Monday, November 03, 2014

Prevenient Grace by W. Brian Shelton


Prevenient Grace, God's Provision for Fallen Humanity
by W. Brian Shelton
Description: If human nature is utterly sinful, how can any human being comprehend and respond to the gospel? This paradox has been debated by theologians for more than five hundred years, and Wesleyan-Arminians have answered that the Holy Spirit enables every human being to accept God's call to redemption. This concept of prevenient grace is the most significant difference betwen Calvinist and Arminian Christians.

I was reading Roger E. Olson's blog when he recommended a newly published book that is finally an indepth scriptural exegetical work on the subject of prevenient grace.

In the book, Olson said, "I am often asked to recommend a book explaining the Wesleyan-Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace. Until now I have not been able to. I am grateful to Brian Shelton for satisfying this greatly felt need. His book is erudite but easily understandable, convincing but irenic, and completely biblical and orthodox. From now on I will know exactly what book to recommend to people curious about prevenient grace."

In this same post, he said something I need to think and affirm in my mind. It is about my understanding of Total Depravity, which I need to review.

Olson said, "I have always defined “total depravity” as extensive, not intensive. That is, “total depravity” simply means that all parts of every persons, except Jesus Christ, since Adam are corrupted by sin—reason not excepted. I have gone out of my way to say that total depravity does not mean, either for Calvinists or Arminians, that every person is as evil as possible. I affirm total depravity as spiritual helplessness apart from a special operation of God’s grace—whether universal or particular. Calvinists typically describe total depravity as being totally dead spiritually. I prefer to define it as being totally helpless spiritually, left to oneself, without prevenient grace. That’s because I believe the image of God remains, however damaged, in every person. Saying, as Calvinists do, that they are “all dead” (before regeneration) implies that they are not God’s special, loved creatures, possessing dignity and worth above all animals.
I have always been one to embrace good theological words even if they are misused by others. I prefer to rescue them from the dustbin of theological vocabulary rather than discard them. “Total depravity” simply means that there is no spiritual good useful for salvation and developing a strong relationship with God in any person born of Adam’s race (except Christ) that is not a super-added gift of God. With Calvinists I can affirm that we are all spiritually dead apart from supernatural grace, but I add only that 1) even the spiritually dead possess the formal image of God, and 2) supernatural grace heals that deadness so that sinners can at least make a decision to repent and trust in God and Christ or not."

I just bought a copy of Prevenient Grace and I've started reading it and it certainly looks promising. I look forward to a good read in the next few days or week.

And I absolutely love the cover of the book!

pearlie

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Jesus, Thank You by Sovereign Grace



I have not led worship for 4 years and finally I'm back to doing it this weekend, both for the Saturday and Sunday worship. It is something I enjoy doing and I'm privileged to be able to serve God in this ministry.

We used the above song Jesus, Thank You by Sovereign Grace, an excellent piece on the saving grace of our Lord Jesus.

pearlie

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Book Review: Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology


Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology
by Mildred Bangs Wynkoop

Noel recommended me this book by a very brilliant writer, minister and PhD holder, Dr. Mildred Bangs Wynkoop (1905-1997).

I recommend this book to anyone who wants a short and summarised read of the life of James Arminius, and a brief history of how Calvinism and Arminianism came about, as well as their theological characteristics and differences.

I can't say enough that she was brilliant. I like how she brought out the historical background of these different thrusts of theology and insisted that one needs to know its history to fully understand where each is coming from. Failing which she referred it to as "confusion of mind which ignorance of historical fact engenders."

She also touched on Theological Provincialism where, "Lifting one aspect of doctrine into a central dominating position, away from its proper place in the whole doctrine, is provincialism. Such theological provincialisms are not necessarily untruths but they invariably distort the Christian gospel because they, apart from the whole gospel, are made to become themselves the judge of truth and actually the gospel."

She also said, "Can we read the Bible objectively? None of us is intellectually neutral. We are committed. Our personal prejudices can and do blind us to truth. We tend to find in the Bible, or in nature anywhere, about what we want to find. Our own fixed point of view “filters out” some of the truths we hear. In fact, our prejudices become the “filter” and hence the judge of truth. Or, to change the figure, the shadow of our own provincialism falls on the truth and we interpret the material according to the pattern formed by our prejudices."

This is so true and quite saddening for me to attend service today and have pastor preach on Limited Atonement, and why the cross of Christ is only for a selected groups of people rather than what is so clearly and simply stated in Scripture where Christ died:

1. For all (Isa. 53:6; Luke 19:10; Matt. 18:14; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; I Tim. 2:4, 6; 2 Pet 3:9)
2. For every man (Heb. 2:9)
3. For the world (John 3:16-17)
4. For the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2)
5. For the ungodly (Rom. 5:6)
6. For many (Matt. 20:28)
7. For the Church (Eph. 5:25)
8. For “me” (Gal. 2:20)

While I admit that I am wearing my own Arminian glasses and having my own filters but I believe I am seeing these verses in Scriptures as they were intended to be - for all, for the world, for the ungodly, for many, for the Church, for me. The words mean what they mean - all, world, ungodly, many, Church and me.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9 ESV), who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4 ESV)

I really encourage you to read Wynkoop's book. Here is a cross section of what she wrote on:

I. Background of the Doctrine of Personal Predestination
- Early Christian Ecumenicity
- Development of Divisions
- Theological Provincialism
- The Pelagian-Augustinian Controversy

II. The Development of the Doctrine of Personal Predestination
- Augustine’s Concepts
- Calvin’s Concept of Personal and Double Predestination
- Double Predestination and Divine Decrees
- Arminius’ Concept of Divine Decrees
- Summary of the Arminian Views

III. Theological Characteristics of Calvinism, Arminianism and Wesleyanism
- Synod of Dort
- High Calvinism
- Arminianism
- Wesleyanism
- Wesleyan-Arminianism

IV. Wesleyan Influence on Classical Theology
- Neo-Calvinism (Mild, or Low Calvinism)
- Wesleyan Calvinism
- Calvinistic Wesleyanism
- Doctrinal Differences in the Light of Biblical Interpretation

V. Theological Tensions Raised by the Doctrine of Particular Predestination
- God’s Will and Man’s Will
- God’s Will and God’s Grace
- God’s Grace and Man’s Sin
- Salvation by Decree or by Faith?

VI. Influence of the Wesleyan Doctrine of the Holy Spirit on Theology
- The Work of the Holy Spirit
- The Holy Spirit and Christian Assurance

pearlie