Thursday, November 16, 2006

007: License to Be

(Ian Fleming's drawing impression of 007)
Casino Royale was Ian Fleming’s first novel about James Bond. James Bond was a fictional agent 007 of Her Majesty’s Secret Service under MI6 who was brought to life by Ian Fleming’s series of spy thrillers and latter the movies.

After 24 movies, James Bond is the longest running and most successful film franchise in cinema history (21 movies by EON productions, two independently produced and one made for television which was the original Casino Royale in 1954).

James Bond is a psychopathic killer with an addiction for violence, sex, high tech gadgetry, fast cars and martini (shaken but not stirred). Yet his appeal has been reincarnated through 6 actors, the latest being Daniel Craig. In my mind, Sean Connery’s James Bond is still the best and conveys the essence who Bond really is.

James Bond is one of the few agents in MI6 who has the code “00”. The double zeros is a license to kill. This means that he is above the law and is empowered to be judge, jury and executioner. The fact that his movies are littered with bodies is obvious to all fans and may be the attraction of the franchise. That and the beautiful “Bond girls”!

The double zero or license to kill is an interesting concept. Whoever has that license is above the law. This brings to mind our Christian concept of “law” and “grace”. As Christians, we know that we are under God’s grace and that the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross has given us our freedom and our salvation. We are under grace and not the law. Are we then above the law?

In the Old Testament, the law brought condemnation and death because no person was ever good enough to fulfill all of its requirements. Christ’s death on the cross saved us from the law. Christ’s atonement has fulfilled all of the law’s requirements. Hence we are free. So then, what is our relationship with the law? The law is still here. It just no longer condemns us.

Antinomianism is a belief that the law does not apply to Christians. The word "antinomian" is derived from two Greek words - "anti" meaning "against," and "nomos" meaning "law." Antinomians are against the use of the law in the lives of Christians. Christ’s sacrifice has made us free of the condemnation of the law (Romans 7:4). We are under grace. Does grace means that we do not have to do anything religious anymore? Does grace means that having received the righteousness of God, there is no need to take care of our souls and our characters, to serve other people inside the church and outside the church?

Can we just relax and let God takes care of everything? Taken to the extreme, antinomianism is a license for immorality. Under grace, we are already saved so there is no need to obey the law. Hence we can live an immoral life and still go to heaven.

While I believe no one reading this will believe in extreme antinomianism, I believe there is a lot of confusion among Christians about the role of the law in our lives. Yes, the law still has a role in our lives. Paul wrote, "Do we then make the Law void through faith? May it never be! Rather, we establish the Law" (Romans 3:31). Christ in his atonement bought us justification in the law. God never meant the law to condemn but to guide. Now that Christ have taken the condemnation of the law out of the way, we Christians can establish the law as the way it should be- a rule of moral conduct that pleases God.

The error in antinomianism is that it fails to balance the fulfillment of the law in a Christian's justification with its use in his or her sanctification. Our justification is by faith and our sanctification is by grace. Sanctification is the process of character development as we grow into the character of Christ. This process is achieved by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and by the means of grace provided by God. The means of grace are baptism, the sacraments, Bible study, prayer, serving, fellowship and circumstances. These will help us to grow by honing and refining our characters. The law is the guide in our sanctification. The law shows us the moral code that God expects of us. The law should give us joy so that we can exclaim with David, "The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" (Psalm 19:8, 10).

As Christians we are not condemned by the law. Yet we are not totally free of the law. We are to follow the law which is our guide for our sanctification. Yet, we are also above the law. This is because of the “now and then” teaching of the Bible. We are bound by the law with regards to our sanctification now but one day at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, we shall be perfect in our resurrected bodies and hence be above the law. Then we shall all be true 007 (in numerology, seven means completeness) - licensed to be perfect.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Examining the Theology of the Word-Faith Movement

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

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

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

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

Read complete article at


A Midnight Caesarean Section

In the still of the OT a shrill cry
the surgeon turns his head and smile
forcefully expelled from the womb
by an incision on the wall
the world intrude rudely into the womb.
a baby is born

In anger and fright the cry
against the harshness of bright light
against the coldness of the air
against the noise of cold technology
a baby is born

What will his future be, I wonder
will he have the love of his parents
will he have his dreams come true
will he fulfil his full potential
a baby is born

Now snug and warm swaddled in blanket
he begins to suck his fingers
he begins to sense his angel
he begins to feel hunger
a baby begins to be


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Star Trek 40th Anniversary 1966-2006

Ode to Star Trek

Star Trek 40th Anniversary Tribute

For the past 40 years, the Star Trek universe is my alternate universe. I entered it when I was barely in my teens. It fueled my sense of wonder, adventure and love of science. As I grew into adolescence and young adulthood, it taught me love, loyalty to my friends, duty, responsibility and faithfulness. It also taught me not to put all my senior officers in one space shuttle. Another lesson is that the emotive captain gets the girls, the logical Vulcan gets to play with his computer and that the doctor is a doctor and not a mechanic.

It taught me certain values that are deeper than life and that sometimes deep and painful sacrifices have to be made for what you believe in. I watched the television series and movies, collected and read the comics and novels, got involved with fan clubs and made plastic models of the various incarnation of the USS Enterprise 1701.

In the meantime, I got married to a beautiful girl and have two wonderful daughters. I became established in my medical career and my spiritual ministries. Star Trek was there for me in the dark, painful and lonely moments of my life. It taught me patience and forgiveness. It taught me that there is always hope. The future is bright and clean. The spaceship is always brightly lit and neat, not like those dirty machines in Star Wars.

It taught me team work and how to develop relationships with other people. It also taught me balding is not too bad a thing. Star Trek taught me honor and reputation is more important than immediate gratification. It taught me that hanging around a space station is as much fun as gallivanting around deep space. It gave me hope that a lost spaceship can find her way home.

Yes, Star Trek is my home away from home. It has taught me to boldly go where no man has gone before. To be more than I can be. Soli Deo Gloria.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

First they ban books, next they burn....

"Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings."
(German: "Dort, wo man Bucher verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen")

Heinrich Heine
from his play Almansor (1821)


Friday, November 03, 2006

Christianity and Intellectual Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria

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

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

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

Butler Eagle, March 26, 2006

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dancing and the Religious Life

Wilfred Cantwell Smith was a renowned historian of world religions. In his comprehensive study on faith, Towards a World Theology (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981), he likened embracing a religion as taking part in a dance.

“One does not ‘have’ a dance, one takes part in it. The pattern one may learn from others; but a dance pattern does not become a dance until someone dances it.” This is so true. We can study a religious text or be an observer in a religious ceremony. Unless and until we get off our high horses and come down to ground level and take part in the dance, we would never understand what religion is about. We can learn the steps and the form but it is in doing that we truly experience what religion is about.

For Smith, living a religious life is a “complex interaction” of four factors:

(1) “an accumulating religious tradition”… in order to fully participate in a religion, we need to know the religious instructions, doctrines, rituals, symbols and the meta-narrative of the religion. In other world, we need to know their story.

(2) “the particular personality”… being religious also means the interaction of our personalities with the tradition. Who we are determines how we embrace the religion.

(3) “the particular environment”…our environment, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic status, education and community bias influence our embracing the religion.

(4) “the transcendent reality”… understanding who the transcendent reality is which is the focal point of our beliefs.

When we embrace a religion, these four factors come into play. Therefore, everyone’s religious experience is unique. No two persons can have the same religious experience. Being religious take on a distinctive and unique character for each one of us. This promises to be interesting as we take to the dance floor with the Lord of the dance.

Being religious in the dance gives us an alternative way of seeing life, of being and of living.

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