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.


 

Recent NCCS Statements 

  • 14 March 2017 -  NCCS Advisory on Disney's Beauty and the Beast
    (Click here to read the statement)


     

 

March 2017 Feature Article 

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made 

by Dr Kwa Kiem Kiok

Now that I am middle-aged, I am more acutely aware of my physical body. There are some things I cannot do anymore, like stay up late, my knees hurt especially when walking down stairs, and I put on weight easily. When I was younger I was quite oblivious to these physical limitations, but no longer. The media and cultural preference for youthfulness means that some people may look down at me because of my grey hair, and pity me that I am past my physical prime, but I have come to appreciate my physical-ness and these restrictions.

Some people take the view that the body is unimportant, since we are all going to die and our bodies will decay anyway, so we can do what we want and indulge in all our fleshly desires. Others go to the other extreme of almost worshipping their bodies or physical prowess and so undergo punishing routines to appear beautiful or to win medals. The biblical view is neither of these, but that the body is fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator God and so is to be cared for and respected.

Created Bodies

The Christian view of the physical body is unique among other religions and science as we believe that we are created by God out of both the dust of the earth and His breath (Gen 2:7). Each part of the body is wonderfully made. We see that in a new born baby so beautifully and fully formed even when she is so tiny, and with the potential and capacity to grow into adulthood. Many of us have eyes to see with, but few of us appreciate the complexity of the physiology of the eye – nerves, lenses, muscles, membranes, etc. – which when all is working well together, enables us to see.

In the Incarnation God himself took on human flesh and thus the human body is given dignity and worth. Jesus lived, eventually suffered at the hands of Pontus Pilate and died. He rose in a glorious resurrected body, the first fruits of those who have died. Since death came through one man, Adam, so resurrection of the dead will come through one man, Jesus (1 Cor 15:20-22). The disciples could recognise him in his resurrected form, that person in that body walked, talked, and ate, yet had the power to go through locked doors and disappear in an instance (e.g. Luke 24). That same Jesus is now in the heavenly realm in that resurrected body and will return again in that body.

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A Politically Correct View of Judaism?

by Rev Dr Simon Chan

Recent years have seen the emergence of strongly Jewish sentiments in some Western Christian circles. The issue is not about whether Judaism should be understood on its own terms (we do that for other religions); what is objectionable is their disregard for a Christian understanding of Israel.

Unlike the dispensationalists of yesteryear whose view of Israel was at least theologically driven (even if mistaken), these modern sentiments are driven more by political correctness expressed in two strategic moves.

One is the refusal to transliterate the tetragrammaton (YHWH) into a pronounceable form. For Jews it may have something to do with their belief in God’s mystery and transcendence: None can see God’s face and live; none can touch God’s ark without provoking him to break out in judgment.

There is also a tradition about not taking the name of the Lord (YHWH) in vain, etc. Ostensibly, this move is made out of respect for Jews. But why now, when the facts have long been known? The political climate has changed especially after the Second World War.

Like many forms of political correctness, there are usually powerful socio-political forces at work. First, the West seems to be burdened with a collective guilt regarding the Holocaust. Any action or speech perceived as anti-Semitic is immediately singled out for harsh censure. When a former president of Iran questioned the existence of the Holocaust, the Western reaction was swift and shrill. Now, anti-Semitism is indeed reprehensible—but so is any form of racism.


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Islamophobia Phobia

By Dr Roland Chia

After a closed-door meeting with 60 Madrasah students in March 2016, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam spoke to the press about the dangers that Islamophobia poses to the social fabric of Singapore.

The origin of the term “Islamophobia” is somewhat obscure. However, it is clear that by the late 1990s, the term had already entered into mainstream political and social discourse.

In 1997, the U.K.-based Runnymede Trust issued a report entitled ‘Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All’, in which Islamophobia is defined as “unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims”. In its 2001 Durban conference, the United Nations describes Islamophobia as a form of prejudice.

Islamophobia, Minister Shanmugam argues, “will be destructive to the soul and spirit of Singapore that we have created – a multi-racial and multi-religious community where we embrace all races and live as one community”.

The Minister is, of course, right.

If Islamophobia refers to irrational and closed-minded prejudice and discrimination against all Muslims, it should be resolutely condemned without qualification. No community should bear the blame for the atrocities perpetrated by a few of its members in the name of the religion that the community espouses.

However, in condemning Islamophobia, one must also take with equal seriousness the obverse problem, which some have described as “Islamophobia phobia” – the fear of being accused of being Islamophobic.


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Upcoming Events

  • 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. 
  • 24 May 2017 - ETHOS Engagement Series Public Lecture: 'Labour Justice & Migrant Workers in Singapore'
    by Dr Stephanie Chok 
    Venue: Bible House Level 4 Seminar Room 
    Time: 7.30pm - 9.00pm
    Click HERE to register.

Featured Video

The ETHOS Annual Lecture 2016 is now available HERE.