Category: Religion

Remembering the Reformers

This year marks the 500th year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, where on 31 Oct 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Catholic church in Wittenberg. That sparked a movement that has continued throughout the centuries, and today, our church is a recipient of what the Reformers stood for and sacrificed their lives for.

As much as there were several benefits and results of the Protestant Reformation, two stand out for me. The first was the translation and printing of the English Bible. John Wycliffe and William Tyndale were among the first to translate God’s Word for the purpose of distribution and circulation among the masses, and were amongst many who were burned at the stake for their efforts. We have them and many others to thank for the fact that we are able to have access and able to read the Bible for ourselves. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16)

The other thing that strikes me is the belief in the power of the gospel which many of the Reformers were convicted about. As much as there was value and history of church traditions, reason, Christian experience, Martin Luther believed that as people read God’s Word and God spoke to them through it, they would come to the saving knowledge of God’s grace through the work of the Holy Spirit. Even today, as much as we have great churches and pastors/leaders, each of us have a personal responsibility to read, study and apply God’s word into our lives, and to spread His word and gospel to others, especially the lost. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes … For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith…” (Rom. 1:16-17)

What do you appreciate about the Protestant Reformation? Find some time perhaps this week to reflect on all that God has done through the Reformers, and give thanks for the many blessings and benefits, leading us to live lives worthy of His name and glory.

(article extracts from Christian Today and Washington Post)

Ten-year-old Michael Keating was taken by his parents to welcome Pope Francis when he arrived in Philadelphia on September 26. According to the Washington Post, the family – all devout Catholics – had not originally planned to bring Michael because of the difficulty in getting him around. At the last minute, though, they decided to go as a whole family.

They stood on the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport, among thousands of others. Something must have caused them to stand out, though, because as the Pope was driven away, suddenly the car stopped. Francis got out, walked over to the Keatings, and offered Michael a blessing, kissing his head. Michael’s mother, Kristin, said it was “life-changing for our family”

Pope Francis was already in his car, headed away from the Philadelphia airport, when he saw Michael Keating.

The whole family, from Elverson, Pa., was on the tarmac to watch Michael’s father, Chuck Keating, lead the Bishop Shanahan high school band as it was playing for the pope.

The car stopped.

The pope emerged, walked up to Michael in his wheelchair, and blessed the boy, who has severe disabilities.

Michael’s mother Kristin Keating said she could not understand Francis’s words, which were not in English. But she understood the emotion: “Love.”

A Christian response to …

Here’s a great article by Karina Kreminski on Missio Alliance titled “A Christian response to Iraq and ISIS”.

I shared at our staff devotion this morning from Rom 12.9-21, adapting what Ms Kreminski wrote, on our Christian response to war, persecution, natural disasters and other negative circumstances in the news and all around us.

On 4 Aug 1914, Britain declared war on Germany, a declaration which plunged the nations into WWI. This year, the centenary of WWI, a war which took the lives of around 9 million, is being commemorated by various nations.

This year we commemorate the centenary of the start of the “war to end all wars.” The last veterans have died and the village war memorials, with their tragic lists of the dead, are weathered with age, but war itself is not history and soldiers have not gone away … there are more than 50 conflicts continuing in the world today. As Christians we must not simply ignore or wish them away.

Continue reading

Very interesting infographic about the world’s population, focusing on the Asian part of the 10/40 window.

More than half of the world's population

Some observations by the writer:

  • There are more Muslims in the circle than outside of it.
  • There are more Hindus in the circle than outside of it.
  • There are more Buddhists in the circle than outside of it.
  • The circle pulls all of this off while being mostly water and including the most sparsely populated country on earth (Mongolia).

Read the full article here.
CNA, 27 Feb 2010

SM Goh was the guest-of-honour at the official opening ceremony of the new Bartley Christian Church building. He said

inter-faith harmony in Singapore is active, not passive, meaning religious groups make it a point to stay in touch, allowing them to clear up any misunderstandings that may arise.


Singapore is “blessed” because different religious groups are able to co-exist, and because there is inter-faith dialogue … It’s not just passive harmony, but active harmony … We have the Inter-Religious Organisation, where the leaders meet often so that they are in touch with one another, so they are able to very quickly react to any misunderstanding and put things right.

MP Seah Kian Peng added

Let us not forget that our speeches – whether in Parliament, from the pulpit or at community events like these – are heard by many who may not be present at the event. This is, by and large, a good thing … But it also means that we have to be prepared to defend our statements and our views to a larger audience. We can usefully put forward our own positions and views without running others down.

See related articles
Community leaders celebrate racial harmony month with gala dinner (CNA, 10 Jul 10)
Be rational, calm, decisive but do not over-react: Dr Yaacob on ISD detentions (CNA, 10 Jul 10)
Ties among religious leaders remain strong: IRO president (CNA, 06 Jul 10)
Maintaining racial harmony imperative to Singapore’s survival: MFA (CNA, 28 Apr 10)
CNA, 08 Feb 2010

Ps Rony Tan of Lighthouse Evangelism was recently called up by the Internal Security Department (ISD) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for his comments about Buddhism and Taoism at his church sessions. These were recorded and posted on their church website, and subsequently posted on Youtube and other websites. According to MHA, his comments were

highly inappropriate and unacceptable as they trivialised and insulted the beliefs of Buddhists and Taoists. They can also give rise to tension and conflict between the Buddhist/Taoist and Christian communities.

ISD also told Ps Rony that

in preaching or proselytising his faith, he must not run down other religions, and must be mindful of the sensitivities of other religions.

Ps Rony has since personally met with and formally apologised to leaders of the Buddhist and Taoist federations, and they have accepted his apology.

(read more)

See related articles
Respect for each other’s beliefs must come from deep within (CNA, 20 Jun 10)
S’poreans must not run down or trivialise others’ beliefs: SM Goh (CNA, 13 Feb 10)
Living with religious harmony (King David, 10 Feb 10) – a must read, exploring the biblical concept of tolerance
DPM Wong says “glad to note” Pastor Tan realised his mistake (CNA, 10 Feb 10)
Religious leaders urge followers to speak out if rule of respect is breached (CNA, 10 Feb 10)
Pastor apologises personally to Buddhist & Taoist federations (CNA, 9 Feb 10)

KUALA LUMPUR : Muslim groups held protests outside 10 mosques across the nation on Friday, amid a dispute over the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.

Police deployed officers to patrol churches and mosques across the country after a midnight attack gutted the ground floor of a church in suburban Kuala Lumpur.

Molotov cocktails were thrown into the compounds of two other churches in pre-dawn raids, but did not cause serious damage.

Prime Minister Najib Razak condemned the attacks which he said could destroy racial harmony in multicultural Malaysia.

“As a multiracial community we must practise respect for one another… it cannot come under threat from anybody,” he told state media, pledging action to prevent any further incidents.

Police chief Musa Hassan said that officers were deployed to monitor churches nationwide after the threats were made to other places of worship.

“We don’t know if all three attacks were isolated or linked, we are still investigating, the modus operandi was different at all three incidents,” he told a press conference.

Tensions were heightened last week when the High Court ruled in favour of the Catholic “Herald” newspaper which has used “Allah” as a translation for “God” in its Malay-language section.

In a long-running legal battle, the government has argued the word should be used only by Muslims.

The ruling was suspended on Wednesday pending an appeal, after the government argued the decision could cause racial conflict.

In the capital on Friday, a few dozen demonstrators gathered outside the national mosque and another in the Malay enclave of Kampung Baru.

Police said that there had been gatherings at mosques in three other states as well, but they had been brief and dispersed quickly.

“We have lived in peace with all religions but we want other religions to respect us and the use of the word Allah, which is exclusive to Muslims,” said organiser Arman Azha Abu Hanifah.

– AFP/ms

KUALA LUMPUR: A church in Malaysia has been fire-bombed in an attack that gutted its ground floor, church officials said on Friday, escalating a dispute over the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.

A fire department official said all stations were on alert for more blazes at religious buildings, ahead of planned nationwide protests on Friday by Muslim groups angry over the use of the word as a translation for the Christian “God.”

The three-storey Metro Tabernacle church in suburban Kuala Lumpur was set ablaze in the attack which took place around midnight, said church leader Peter Yeow, 62.

“Witnesses saw four people smash the glass and throw incendiaries into the church building. They came on two motorcycles,” he told AFP at the scene as fire department forensic officers picked through the wreckage.

There were no casualties in the attack on the church, which occupies the corner lot of a row of shop houses and which Yeow said draws some 1,500 people weekly.

“The fire destroyed the administrative part of the church. We do not know if the prayer hall on the third floor suffered any damage,” he said, warning all other churches to “double their guard” against any attacks.

Anuar Harun, who headed the fire department operation, said that forensic experts were working with the police and a canine unit to probe the blaze.

“We are investigating the cause of fire. We cannot provide any more details. It is a sensitive issue,” he said when asked if it was a case of arson.

“We have asked all our fire stations to be on alert for such fires on religious premises,” he said.

The High Court last week ruled in favour of the Catholic “Herald” newspaper which has used “Allah” as a translation for “God” in its Malay-language section.

The ruling was suspended on Wednesday pending an appeal, after the government argued the decision could cause racial conflict in multicultural Malaysia, where Muslim Malays make up 60 percent of the population.

The security guard at the Metro Tabernacle church, 65-year-old V. Mariappan, said he had just walked away from the main entrance of the building to use the bathroom when the building erupted in flames.

“When I came back, there was a huge fire inside the church building. There was a few loud explosions like bombs exploding,” he said, adding he saw two motorcycle helmets lying on the road in flames. – AFP/de

Related articles
Attacks after Malaysian court rules Christians can worship Allah (Times UK, 8 Jan 10)

KUALA LUMPUR – After months of wrangling, a Malaysian court ruled on Thursday, December 31, that Christians are entitled to use the world “Allah” in their publications to refer to God, overturning a government ban.

“The applicant has the constitutional right to use the word ‘Allah’,” High Court Judge Lau Bee Lan told a packed courtroom, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.

The use of the word Allah in Christian publications in the local Malay language has triggered a controversy in the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian country since a local Catholic weekly, The Herald, used it in its Malay-language edition.

The government threatened to revoke the weekly’s license if it continued printing the word.

It later allowed Christian publications to use some Muslim words, including Allah, as long as the phrase “For Christians” is printed on the cover.

However, the government backtracked after some scholars said this might offend Muslims, who make up more than 60 percent of the population.

In February, the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, as publisher of Herald, filed for a judicial review against the government for the right to use Allah.
“Even though Islam is the federal religion, it does not empower the respondents to prohibit the use of the word,” ruled the court.

The court ruling was swiftly welcomed by Malaysian Christians, who make up around 9.1 percent of the population.

“It is a day of justice and we can say right now that we are citizens of one nation,” said Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the Catholic weekly.

He immediately declared that the paper would use the word “Allah” in its upcoming Sunday edition.
“This also means that…the Christian faith can now continue to freely use the word ‘Allah’…without any interference from the authorities.”

Officials from Malaysia’s Islamic Party (PAS) have supported the case of the Catholic weekly as a constitutional right.

Malaysia has a population of nearly 26 millions, with Malays, mostly Muslims, making up nearly 60 percent.
Christians, including a Catholic population of nearly 800,000, make up around 9.1 percent of the population.

Attended a public talk today by Dr Mathew Mathews, a NUS sociology professor on the topic “Christianity and the secular sphere in Asia”.

He started by examining secularization, which he observes, has brought about a decline in power, popularity and prestige of religion, as well as modernization, which has resulted in the public and private sphere becoming increasingly separated. He then went on to touch on the rationale for secularization, the rise and response of conservatism, conservatives and political action, and the cultural cosmopolitan reaction.

What I found most noteworthy was his conclusion on what the church can champion (both for and against), making reference to David H. Lumsdaine’s Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in Asia.

  • contributing to democracy
  • championing causes
  • dialoguing with other faiths
  • providing platforms for democratic leadership
  • helping the poor and marginalized

See related article

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