The Humanist UK website describes a “humanist” as someone who (1) trusts the scientific method when it comes to understanding how the universe works and rejects the idea of the supernatural (and is therefore an atheist or agnostic), (2) makes ethical decisions based on reason, empathy and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals, and (3) believes that, in the absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe, human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.
Presumably, this description would be accepted as a representative view by contemporary humanism movements. This view of humanism rejects supernaturalism and reduces human beings to materialistic objects without souls which would be antithetical to Christian beliefs. On the other hand, Christianity affirms virtues like empathy and concern for human beings and the importance of realizing meaning and happiness in this life. Continue reading “Christian Humanism”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s philosophical acumen is evident in his academic dissertations, Act and Being and Sanctorium Communio: A Theological Study of the Sociology of the Church* where he gives a masterly analysis of the relationship between Kantian transcendental idealism, Heideggerian phenomenology and the social ontology of the church. But Bonhoeffer’s theological analysis necessarily took a concrete … Continue reading “Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Freedom under Tyranny”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s philosophical acumen is evident in his academic dissertations, Act and Being and Sanctorium Communio: A Theological Study of the Sociology of the Church* where he gives a masterly analysis of the relationship between Kantian transcendental idealism, Heideggerian phenomenology and the social ontology of the church. But Bonhoeffer’s theological analysis necessarily took a concrete turn when the Germany was confronted by an existential threat as Hitler began to impose an idolatrous ideology (National Socialism) aimed at building a homogeneous collectivity of single-minded obedient citizens. The Nazi regime proceeded to arrogate power to appoint leaders for the German Evangelical Church, control of its finance and governance structures. Any church which resisted would have its pastors arrested and its property confiscated.
[* Karl Barth described Bonhoeffer’s book Sanctorium Communio as a miracle and gave it the highest praise. “I openly confess that I have misgivings whether I can even maintain the high level reached by Bonhoeffer, saying no less in my own words and context, and saying it no less forcefully, than did this young man so many years ago”]
Never is freedom valued more than when it is forcibly taken away. Bonhoeffer himself experienced the blunt instrument of political tyranny when his radio address warning Germany not to be seduced by the idolatrous cult of the Fuhrer was abruptly cut off the air. The proclamation of German transcendental idealism about the sovereign ego and the supreme freedom of man sounded hollow when the social institutions of freedom and justice were being hijacked by totalitarianism. Bonhoeffer therefore asserted that the ontological foundation of freedom rests on authentic human relationships based on mutual recognition. Continue reading “Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Freedom under Tyranny”
Faith and Public Discourse in a Secular Democracy. Part 1
Dr. Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, a lecturer in political science has accused Ms. Hannah Yeoh, the Speaker of the Selangor Assembly of hypocrisy because she acknowledges her support from Christians when she entered politics. She also encourages young people to join politics with the goal of returning integrity, justice and fairness to governance in Malaysia. Kamarul further finds DAP guilty of prejudice against Islam since it readily participates in religious festivals like Wesak and Deepavali and Thaipusam while it champions a view of secular democracy which ‘excludes’ Islam. “Kamarul claims that for DAP, “separation of politics from religion should only be done if it is about Islamic matters. But if it involves other religions such as Christianity then they (DAP) are okay.” [See, Hannah Yeoh’s book more about personal than political growth – The MalaysianInsight 16/05/2017]
It is evident that Kamarul has maligned Hannah Yeoh and misunderstood DAP given that their political commitment is to a form of secular democracy that is enshrined in the National Constitution. More significantly, Kamarul’s accusation is surprising as we would have expected a lecturer in political science to display a nuanced understanding of the relationship between of religion and politics in a secular democracy like Malaysia. While Kamarul personally has no problem going beyond his duty as an academician to initiate political action against Hannah Yeoh, nevertheless he demands that politicians like Hannah Yeoh dichotomize their faith and personal convictions from social-political engagement. Continue reading “Hannah Yeoh’s Reference to Faith is a Positive Contribution to Public Discourse in Secular Democracy”
Many effective and proven leaders in growing churches of the 2/3rds world are unable to take time off to pursue higher academic degrees because they occupy vital ministry positions in the field. If you are one of these leaders, you may be interested in and wish to take note of a new doctoral program offered by the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, in collaboration with the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life,UK.
This program allows you to pursue your academic degree without needing to take extended leave from your leadership/ministry position as the program typically requires a total residency of only 4 months spread over a period of 4-5 years. Effectively this works like a part-time study program.
** Best of all, part-scholarship is available.
Complete program details are available in the attached brochure:
The early church avoided active engagement with Roman politics, where the contestation for power was brutal and political fortune was fickle, brutish and short. The bedraggled religious community was already leading a precarious existence since it lacked political patronage. As such, it would be wise for it to avoid getting entangled with mighty Caesar who … Continue reading “How a Minority Church Impacted Wider Society”
The early church avoided active engagement with Roman politics, where the contestation for power was brutal and political fortune was fickle, brutish and short. The bedraggled religious community was already leading a precarious existence since it lacked political patronage. As such, it would be wise for it to avoid getting entangled with mighty Caesar who would not hesitate to snuff out any potential challenge to his throne. However, political realism did not mean that the church retreated into a cocooned existence in the ghetto. Instead, it sought to serve wider society by building effective social-economic networks for social renewal.
Thesis: Regarding both the commonality and the crucial difference in the way Christianity and Islam approach public doctrine and the ordering of society – “The issue of public doctrine cannot be evaded…Muslims and Christians share a common belief that life is not to be understood or managed without reference to God…Christianity and Islam have differing beliefs about how God rules in human affairs. The heart of the difference is in the fact of the cross. The Prophet rode into Mecca to conquer; Jesus rode into Jerusalem to die. The crux lies there. And that means that Christians cannot use coercion in the struggle between two different ultimate faiths. But struggle there must be. The field is the whole of our public doctrine.
That is to say, while Christianity and Islam agree on the theistic foundation for public morals, they disagree on how public morals should be exemplified and regulated, especially in a plural society. In particular, contemporary Christianity gives priority to embodying moral ideals rather than imposing moral rules and regulations backed by punitive measures. The basis for this Christian approach rests on the understanding that the church’s exemplary moral life best represents how the gospel redeems culture. Continue reading “Going Public with Lesslie Newbigin: Public Theology and Social Engagement in an Islamic Context”
Prologue: CNN survey shows rural Malaysians find haze level acceptable! CNN conducted a nation-wide survey among rural Malaysians with the question, “What do you think of the haze?” The overwhelming answer from the Malay farmers was, “Asap tebal”. To assist Malaysians who are confused by the discrepancy between hazy news and reality, Creation News Network … Continue reading “Creation Care and Renewal”
Prologue: CNN survey shows rural Malaysians find haze level acceptable!
CNN conducted a nation-wide survey among rural Malaysians with the question, “What do you think of the haze?” The overwhelming answer from the Malay farmers was, “Asap tebal”.
To assist Malaysians who are confused by the discrepancy between hazy news and reality, Creation News Network invites its subscribers to read and comment on this Op-ed, “Creation Care and Renewal” written by its chief correspondent, Ng Kam Weng
Precis: Creation is not to be rendered secondary in God’s salvation. Creation retains its integrity as the present sphere of human stewardship; it is the sacramental reminder of the hope for glory.
We see the whole of creation infused with God’s presence and, indeed, the creation itself is sometimes understood as the “temple of God” in the broadest sense of that expression. We care for the creation precisely because God’s presence fills it and he has made it the dwelling place of those created in his image. By caring for the “house” we honor the “builder of the house.” Creation care becomes a part of what it means to love and honor God.
Precis: Human rights circumscribe the limits of legitimate authority (including majority rule) and are inalienable for any individual, that is, they cannot be taken from any individual. Since human rights are inalienable and are inherent possession of every individual, they are not given by authorities. Human rights are the pre-political possession of the individual rather … Continue reading “Human Dignity: New Paradigm for Religious Liberty **”
Human rights circumscribe the limits of legitimate authority (including majority rule) and are inalienable for any individual, that is, they cannot be taken from any individual. Since human rights are inalienable and are inherent possession of every individual, they are not given by authorities. Human rights are the pre-political possession of the individual rather than a gift or concession from governing authorities. Otherwise, the state may claim the right to take rights back from citizens. Such a proposition is consistent with the understanding that human rights is not a matter of state policy, it is a matter of universal moral principle…
Man as a being created in God’s image is as such inherently entitled to equal regard regardless of race, gender or social position. It demands impartiality in how persons are treated. Acknowledgment of human equality entails protection from harm and along with it the range of inalienable human rights including the right to respect, the right to life, and the right to certain freedoms exemplified by fundamental liberties or bill of rights enshrined in modern constitutionalism. In this regard, rights cannot be lost or taken away.
In summary, recognizing human beings as created in the image of God entails (1) equal dignity and interdependence of man and woman; (2) personal rights such as equality, freedom and dignity of the individual; (3) social rights arising from interdependence of community members in matters of justice; and (4) stewardship of creation.
I. Presuppositions and Social Realities
This paper is premised on three theses about the logical outcome of conventional Malaysian politics.
Thesis 1 – So long as Malaysian politics is negotiated on racial/religious terms, political discourse and public policies will increasingly become more Islamic. Only an Islam that undertakes a process of Ijtihad which reforms the Shariah Law can prevent the eventual emergence of an Islamic state. Itjihad is unacceptable to Sunni Islam practiced in Malaysia.
Thesis2 – Non-Muslims must reject the myth of monolithic identity of race and religion based politics (c.f. rebuttal by Amatya Sen, (Identity and Violence) and shift the terms of politics to one based on the human rights and equal citizenship in a modern pluralistic democracy.
Thesis 3 – Democratic rights are not just ideals but the outcome of political power, law and public policies enforced through social institutions. Furthermore, democracy practices can flourish only if it is supported by a strong civil society that nurtures democratic culture and democratic discipline.
I. Understanding Romans 13:1-7 in Context.
There has been a controversy in the media sparked off by a comment made by the leader of the Christians for Peace and Harmony Malaysia (CPHM) who urged Christians “to submit to and obey the government and those God had put in authority.” The leader added, “So don’t look at the person, as long as he is in position, the Scripture teaches us to honour and respect authority.”
Detractors protest that the comment is inappropriate as it takes a scriptural text out of context, to be used as a pretext for what is politically partisan. Indeed, many totalitarian states have caused much grief to the church when they sought to exploit this passage to justify their demand for unconditional submission from any Christian citizen who resists abusive authorities. We need therefore to emphasize that Paul’s call for submission is circumscribed by certain presuppositions. Continue reading “The Bible Does not Teach Uncritical Submission and Blind Obedience to the State”