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.

December 2017 Feature Article

Religious Tolerance and Limited State Bureaucracy

By Dr Ng Kam Weng

Religious tolerance is a tenuous legacy of democracy as state bureaucracy instinctively extends its power to regulate all aspects of the life of its citizens. As such, a moral citizenry needs to be motivated by cogent arguments in order that it may press for institutional safeguards which would prevent state bureaucracy from encroaching on religious freedom. In this regard, John Locke is a towering figure in providing philosophical foundations for a limited state bureaucracy that respects the independence of religious institutions and promotes religious tolerance.

For Locke, man needs protection for his life, liberty and property. It is essential that every man enjoys natural rights to these goods in order that he may serve society. These rights are claimed on the basis of natural law, that is, God’s law prescribed to all men at creation. Since these rights are natural, they are inherent to every individual. As inalienable, they cannot be transferred or forfeited. Locke emphasizes that these rights are pre-political; they are not given by the state, nor can the state take them away.

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December 2017 Credo

Mark 16:17-18: A Biblical Mandate for Handling Poisonous Snakes?

By Rev Dr James Lim

The Practice of Snake Handling

The practice of snake handling, especially venomous ones, can be found in some churches as part of their worship service.  Although snake handling has resulted in deaths from snake bites, it is still being practiced as it is perceived by members of such congregations as a test or demonstration of the snake handlers’ faith.  The scriptural passage often cited to support this practice is Mark 16:17-18:

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name … they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; … (Mark 16:17-18)

There are two main issues related to such use of this passage: (1) whether 16:9-20 is a latter addition or the original ending of the Gospel of Mark and (2) the interpretation of 16:17-18.

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December 2017 Pulse 

An Anatomy of Sexual Harassment

By Dr Roland Chia

There have been a slew of scandalous revelations of sexual harassment perpetrated by the who’s who in Hollywood and American TV that is truly disconcerting. From the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein to the actor Kevin Spacey to Bill O’Reilly of Fox News’ popular O’Reilly Show, disclosures of these scandals have appeared steadily and unabated almost every day.

Women in Singapore are not immune from this scourge. According to a 2008 survey conducted by the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), over half of the 500 people interviewed said that they have experienced sexual harassment in some form at work. The spectrum of abuses ranges from getting sexually explicit text messages to being inappropriately touched to rape.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of the United States defines sexual harassment as ‘unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature’.

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Theology and Disability

Special Paper by Dr Roland Chia


The last two decades witnessed a growing body of literature that focuses on society and disability. Designated rather prosaically as ‘disability studies’, this field of academic work, which analyses issues affecting people with disabilities, is expanding rapidly and has taken a profoundly interdisciplinary character. Perhaps the oldest academic organisation specially dedicated to this field is The Society for Disability Studies, whose origins can be traced to 1982.

Disability studies are particularly prominent in the academic settings of the humanities and social sciences. Scholars in this field have taken a variety of approaches and employed different methodologies to analyse the many facets of this complex phenomenon. Significantly, a number of scholars have come to recognise that to understand disabilities, the complex confluence of the physical and the cultural as well as the personal and the public cannot be ignored. Put differently, disability and impairment simply cannot be abstracted from their concrete historical and cultural milieu.

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Dear Readers,

Every month the ETHOS Institute publishes five articles on a variety of topics on its website. These articles have attracted many readers who find them informative and engaging.

However, we realise that although our articles cover a wide range of subjects, some issues and themes may not have received the attention they deserve.

If you would like us to address a topic or issue that is of interest to you, please write to us by clicking here. We will try our very best to post an article on that topic on our website.

Thank you for supporting the work of ETHOS Institute!

Yours sincerely in Christ,

Dr Roland Chia
Theological and Research Advisor 
ETHOS Institute for Public Christianity 

Upcoming Events

  • 29 Sep 2018 - ETHOS Conference 2018
    More details coming soon.
  • 24 Oct 2018 - ETHOS Annual Lecture 2018
    Venue: Trinity Theological College  
    Time: 7.30pm - 9.00pm

Featured Video

ETHOS Engagement Series Lecture:
"Kindness: A Moral Argument for the Existence of God" (Part 1)
by Dr William Wan

Part 2 of this lecture is available HERE.