ETHOS Institute™ for Public Christianity

A Christian think tank formed by the National Council of Churches of Singapore, Trinity Theological College and The Bible Society of Singapore.

Announcement Regarding ETHOS Conversation 2017

The ETHOS Conversation 2017 (originally on 21 March) has been rescheduled to 4 April 2017 due to Minister Chan's urgent travel commitments. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Registration for the Conversation is now open.
Attendees who registered before the rescheduling will be contacted by email and given priority for the new date.

Recent NCCS Statements 

  • 5 December 2016 - Protestant Attitudes towards the Departed
    (Click here to read the statement)
  • 17 November 2016 - Pre-Implantation Genetic Testing of IVF Embryos
    (Click here to read the statement.)



February 2017 Feature Article 

Strangers and God Encounters 

by Dr Goh Wei Leong

A Land of Strangers

In this cosmopolitan world of growing homogeneity, we are daily faced with stories and issues surrounding migration—in our local press, coffee shops, crowded trains and political circles. Churches have even started to engage on the subject, albeit occasionally.

Yet while we try to keep up with our understanding and response to the controversies, real and pressing global issues of migration continue to escalate, from the distant refugee crisis in Europe to the low-wage migrant workers right here in our midst.

Singapore currently houses about 1 million low-wage migrant workers, including domestic helpers and those working in construction, marine and manufacturing industries. The stranger is present in our homes, hospitals, streets, trains and malls. India, China, Philippines, Bangladesh and people from all across the globe share our private and public space.

The question for the local church now is: how should we respond to this phenomenon of strangers in our land? With an increasing xenophobia both overt and subtle in our values, policies and community life in Singapore, our Christian faith is the antidote. We must respond with ‘Philoxenia’ instead.

More seriously, however, that kind of attitude may suggest that on matters of morals, it is impossible to find consensus. In other words, morality, to use a phrase borrowed from Alasdair MacIntyre, is too fragmented in our post-enlightenment world that we cannot talk anymore with people who do not share, say, our religious beliefs or world views.

The assertion is that we cannot have any in-depth conversation with those who hold different perspectives on life especially on issues relating to what constitute moral standards deemed to be acceptable for people of differing faiths and those with no religious affiliation.


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How a Minority Church Impacted Wider Society

by Dr Ng Kam Weng

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.

A Social Message of the Power of Love in Action

Lucian (a non-Christian) was impressed by the solidarity among the Christians. He testified that “their original lawgiver has taught them that they were all brethren, one of another . . . They become incredibly alert of anything  . . . that affects their common interests.”

The love of Christians was exceptional in times of plagues and calamities. Eyewitnesses reported that when an epidemic struck, the populace rejected the sick and abandoned unburied corpses in their desperate attempts to avoid infections from a contagious and fatal disease. In contrast, Bishop Dionysius described how Christians “held fast to each other, visited the sick without fear, ministered to them assiduously, and served them for the sake of Christ . . . many did die, after caring for the sick and giving health to others, transplanting the death of others, as it were, into themselves.”

The impact of such selfless service was highlighted by the early Church historian Eusebius. He wrote, “Then did they show themselves to the heathen in the clearest light. For the Christians were the only people who amid such terrible ills showed their fellow-feeling and humanity by their actions. Day by day, some would busy themselves with attending to the dead and burying them (for there were numbers to whom no one else paid any heed); others gathered in one spot all who were afflicted by hunger throughout the whole city, and gave bread to them all. When it became known, people glorified the Christians’ God, and, convinced by the facts, confessed the Christians alone were truly pious and religious.”


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Designer Disability?

By Dr Roland Chia

In 2002, the Washington Post Magazine published a story of an American lesbian couple, Sharon Duchesneau and Candy McCullough – both of whom are deaf – who had deliberately chosen to have a deaf baby. A friend of theirs, with five generations of deafness in his family, donated his sperm.

The couple succeeded: their child Gauvin McCullough has only a very slight amount of hearing in one ear.

Duchesneau and McCullough are not the only couple that has chosen to have a child with a disability. In 2008, BBC News reported that Tomato Lichy and his partner Paula Garfield also tried to have a disabled baby through IVF.

A survey conducted by Baruch, Kaufman and Hudson in 2006 showed that couples who deliberately choose to have children with conditions commonly seen as disabilities are not as uncommon as one would imagine.

The highly-publicised case of the American lesbian couple cited above has ignited a fierce debate in the popular press as well as in academic journals on medical ethics across the globe.
The responses have been extremely polarised. On one end of the spectrum, there are those who strongly condemn the couple for deliberately bringing a disabled child into the world. On the other end are those who applaud them for exercising their right and autonomy.

Should people with inherited disabilities be allowed to select children with the genetic disposition to have similar disabilities?

The answer to this question is made more complex by recent discourse on disability.

There are some who argue that a distinction must be made between disability and impairment. Disability, they insist, is a social construct that has resulted in discrimination against people with physical impairments.


Read More

Upcoming Events

  • 17 Feb 2017 - ETHOS Engagement Series Public Lecture: 'Kindness: A Moral Argument for the Existence of God'
    by Dr William Wan
    Venue: Bible House Level 4 Seminar Room 
    Time: 7.30pm - 9.00pm
    Click HERE to register
  • 4 April 2017 - ETHOS Conversation 2017: Race & Religion in Singapore
    with Minister Chan Chun Sing & Dr Mathew Mathews
    Venue: Bible House Level 5 
    Time: 7.30pm - 9.30pm
    Click HERE to register
  • 10 May 2017 - ETHOS Conference on Science and Religion 
    by Dr Brian H. Thomas 
    Venue: Bible House Level 4 Seminar Room 
    Time: 10am - 4pm 
    Click HERE to register. 

Featured Video

The ETHOS Annual Lecture 2016 is now available HERE.