Monthly Archives: August 2018

Body Dynamics

August 2018 Pulse

One of the most interesting concepts peculiar to Methodism is ‘connectionalism’, a neologism coined to describe how the Methodist Church is ordered and organised.

At the practical level, connectionalism refers to the ways in which Methodist churches support each other by sharing their resources – pastors, leaders, and financial support – so that they may fulfil their common mission to spread the Gospel. Seen in this light, this concept points to the symbiotic relationship between different local congregations.

Connectionalism, therefore, is the way in which the unity of the Methodist Church is made manifest. Some have described it as an aggregate model of unity where different groups – local conferences, Annual Conferences, ministry networks – are denominationally bound together in a network of relationships.

While this practical aspect of the concept is generally well understood, more attention must be directed at its theological foundations. As Methodist historian Russell Richey has rightly observed: “Seldom unpacked theologically, this practical and practiced ecclesiology can be an extraordinary resource for self-understanding and for Christian unity, but only if Methodists think about it seriously.” (emphasis added)

Connectionalism should not be seen merely as a pragmatic arrangement, an ecclesiastical polity that is practically appropriate but not in any way theologically grounded. Rather, it expresses what the Church in essence is, and what it should always strive to be. Put in slightly more technical terms, the concept points to the Church’s ontology, its very being.

The most important image of the Church in the New Testament that helps us to understand the essence of connectionalism is the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). Once a believer puts his faith in Christ and is baptised, he becomes a member of what theologians like Augustine of Hippo call Christ’s mystical body (Latin: Mystici Corporis Christi).

The believer becomes a member of God’s universal (‘catholic’) Church by becoming a member of a particular church, for example Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church, through baptism. The believer’s vertical fellowship (Greek: koinonia) with God results in his horizontal fellowship with God’s people, the Church.

The body of Christ metaphor portrays the members’ communion with one another in a relationship of love, mutual responsibility, and interdependence, with Christ as their Head. Each member is equally important (1 Corinthians 12:14-20), and the relationship obtained by the power of the Holy Spirit is such that “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Now, the metaphor ‘the Body of Christ’ is used for the local church as well as the universal Church. This means that the local church should never be regarded simply as merely a part of the larger Body of Christ – the local church is the Body of Christ in the fullest sense, regardless of its numerical size.

Nowhere is this more clearly stated than in a paper titled ‘The Church: Local and Universal’ by a joint working group of Roman Catholics and Protestants. In paragraph 14, we read: “The local church is not an administrative or juridical sub-section or part of the universal Church. In the local church the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is truly present and active.”

However, although complete in itself, the local church also participates in God’s universal Church. Conversely, the universal Church (which stretches across space and time) may be said to be a communion of particular churches.

Here communion must be understood theologically and not simply from the standpoint of organisation or affiliations, formal or otherwise. This means that the universal Church must not be seen simply as a sum of particular churches, a web or federation of churches.

Thus when we speak of the universal Church as a communion of churches, we are pointing to its essential mystery.

As the Roman Catholic document on communio ecclesiology puts it: “…the particular Churches, insofar as they are ‘part of the one Church of Christ’, have a relationship of ‘mutual interiority’ with the whole, that is, with the universal Church, because in every particular Church ‘the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and active’.”

As a neologism, ‘connectionalism’ is at first blush admittedly clumsy and theologically unsuggestive. It gives the impression that it is only of practical – administrative, organisational, utilitarian – import.

But when the concept is unpacked theologically, connectionalism expresses the very essence of the Church, its mystery. It points to the Church’s organic unity.

Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor for the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.

Proverbs: Rulers and Working for Justice

August 2018 Credo

Israel’s kings had a hand in the composition of the Book of Proverbs (Prov. 1:1; 25:1). It is not surprising, then, that some of the sayings in Proverbs relate specifically to rulers.

Proverbs addresses questions which naturally arise for us as Christian citizens: How should we view our rulers and their officials? How can we help them carry out their tasks? How should we respond if they do not?

Some verses in Proverbs tell us that attributes such as wisdom, justice and integrity are what should distinguish a good leader. In Proverbs 8 Lady Wisdom (wisdom personified) states: ‘By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me rulers rule, and nobles, all who govern rightly’ (8:15-16). Other verses develop this theme: ‘It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness’ (16:12; cf. 20:28). But at least one verse reflects an apparently more cynical view: ‘Many seek the favour of a ruler, but it is from the LORD that one gets justice’ (29:26).

Proverbs also speaks about people, those whom rulers govern. One verse makes the simple point that a ruler needs a people (14:28): ‘The glory of a king is a multitude of people; without people a prince is ruined.’ But equally, a people needs a good ruler (28:2): ‘When a land rebels it has many rulers; but with an intelligent ruler there is lasting order.’

Interestingly, while Proverbs 28 and 29 contain some sayings specifically relating to leaders, they contain many more relating to the character of the people, e.g., 28:4: ‘Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law struggle against them.’ See also: 28:5-10, 24-28; 29:6-10. Citizens as well as rulers are responsible for the moral character of a nation.

Proverbs also focuses on those who advise and serve rulers. Some verses depict rulers as seeking out people of skill, integrity and honourable speech: ‘A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favour, but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully’ (14:35; cf. 16:13; 22:11, 29). Other sayings note that a leader may be led astray by the wrong sort of advice: ‘If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked’ (29:12; cf. 25:4-5).

A leader should administer justice, punishing the wicked: ‘A king who sits on the throne of judgment winnows all evil with his eyes’ (20:8). Most telling of all are the ‘words of King Lemuel’ (31:1-9), which tell rulers not to focus on the side-benefits of power (concubines and strong drink), but to take seriously the responsibilities of their position: ‘Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy’ (vv. 8-9). Conversely, Proverbs uses telling images to describe the harm done by an unjust ruler: such a person is ‘a beating rain that leaves no food’ (28:3) and ‘a roaring lion or a charging bear’ (28:15; cf. 29:4)

For Proverbs, then, a ruler is an awe-inspiring figure, not lightly to be approached (19:12): ‘A king’s anger is like the growling of a lion, but his favour is like dew on the grass.’ And yet there are times when one needs to confront a leader or an official for the sake of justice, whatever the personal cost (25:26): ‘Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain are the righteous who give way before the wicked.’ If one speaks skilfully and tactfully, the result may be positive (25:14): ‘With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue can break bones.’

To return to the questions posed earlier: how should we view our rulers and their officials? Surely, as people who can do a great deal of good or harm, depending on how they exercise their power. At the very least, we should pray for them (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

Again: how can we help our leaders carry out their tasks? If we exercise leadership in any sphere, then let us make our influence count for good. Most of us will never be leaders, but we can still help our leaders indirectly, by making sure that in our personal lives we conduct ourselves justly and righteously. As noted earlier, the character of a leader makes a big difference to the moral quality of a nation, but so, too, does the character of its citizens. Proverbs has much to say about fairness, integrity, justice and straight dealing as these relate to national leaders, but it has much more to say about these qualities as they relate to all of God’s people.

What if our leaders fail to carry out their responsibilities? One response is to vote them out of power. (I write two weeks after the Malaysian general elections.) But what about the years between general elections? Sometimes Christians, whether church leaders or not, may feel themselves called to challenge the governing authorities.

This is not a task for the raw and inexperienced. Those who come before a ruler or official on behalf of others must exhibit many of the virtues and attributes commended throughout Proverbs: they must be people of integrity, who feel a deep concern for the underprivileged; wise and shrewd, knowing how to avoid giving unnecessary offence; able to speak persuasively, knowing how to present a case and how not to be provoked in debate, able to sense when to speak and when to fall silent.

Such men and women may, in God’s providence, be a wholesome influence in the life of the nation. They may bring about significant good for their fellow citizens, particularly the most needy. In this way they may provide a powerful witness to the gospel. Is that not an area where we should long to see the church taking a lead?

I end with a general point: it is high time we studied Proverbs more seriously, because it remains a highly contemporary book, full of practical wisdom that can guide us in our Christian discipleship.

Dr Philip Satterthwaite has been Principal of the Biblical Graduate School of Theology (BGST) since 2011. He has been Lecturer in Old Testament and Biblical Hebrew at BGST since May 1998.

Christian Worship and the Shortage of Space

August 2018 Feature

Churches in Singapore have to deal with a reality that is unique, compared to many of their counterparts in other countries. Many of the churches here have been built on land that has a leasehold tenure of 30 years (or are located in buildings that have a similar leasehold arrangement). Every 30 years, these churches need to renew their leases to use the space for another 30 years, at the prevailing market rates. The net effect is a financial burden that few churches in other countries have to bear. Based on some estimates, the additional financial commitment  necessary to sustain these leases can take up as much as 20% of a church’s annual budget, considering the typical weekly combined worship attendance of between 1,000 and 1,500 worshippers.

Given such burdens, while churches that are sitting on freehold properties can channel much of their funds to useful ministries, other less fortunate churches are constantly on a fund-raising mode to sustain the use of their facilities. Many churches do so with the hope that, once the lease is renewed, their congregations would continue to grow. This would hopefully lessen the financial burden, per capita, for the next lease renewal. However, that hope is also limited by the fact that the church can only accommodate so many additional members on a Sunday, as far as the physical space is concerned. This is quite a sombre language to use in talking about the ministry of the gospel! But it is a stark reality that many churches in Singapore have to grapple with.

Coupled with this is another trend, which is the growing number of Christians. According to the latest population census report in Singapore (2010), the general population grew at the rate of approximately 2.34% p.a. in the past 10 years. The number of Christian worshippers, however, grew from 588,000 in 2000 to 930,000 in 2010 (as reported in the Straits Times on 23 Feb 2015), an annualised growth rate of 4.7% p.a. That is double the rate of the population increase. While the data on the physical space allocated for religious use in Singapore (especially for use by Christian churches) is not available to the public, it is nonetheless conceivable that the space crunch for churches in Singapore will be increasing in the years to come, based on the trends mentioned here. In other words, Christians in Singapore have a problem at hand.

So, what is the solution? Among other things, the Singapore government is encouraging the development of a new approach to the sharing of space for Christian worship — a hub for multiple churches to use. Quite recently, such a project was announced: a $25m hub was proposed at a location in Jurong. Despite some teething issues in that particular project, such an approach can alleviate the space constraints to some extent. However, one might ask, will that be an adequate measure in the long run, given the trends? How effectively would a project for 3 or 4 churches be a solution for the more than 500 Protestant congregations (according to the Straits Times report mentioned above) that exist in Singapore? A more profound solution, I think, have to come from Christians themselves.

For the past two thousand years, most Christian communities have their worship on Sundays. This goes back all the way to the book of Acts, where it is mentioned that the Christians gathered together on the first day of the week, Sunday (Acts 20:7). Apparently, it was chosen because our Lord Jesus resurrected on a Sunday, and it is also the first day of creation (Justin Martyr, I Apology, 67). In 1 Cor 16:2, the apostle Paul also indicates that the church gathered on “the first day of the week”.  At about 100 A.D., the Apostolic Father Ignatius also mentioned that the church met on a “Lord’s Day” (Letter to the Magnesians, 9). So, with some minor exceptions, Christians have gathered together on Sundays for worship since the earliest days of the church, as far as we know. However, can some adjustment be made to accommodate the growing number of worshippers in our churches?

Perhaps, in this regard, churches in Singapore should consider holding their worship services on Saturday evenings, in addition to Sundays. This is what some churches are already doing, in order to accommodate the growth in the size of their congregations. If we were to follow the Jewish reckoning of the day, our Lord’s day would have started on a Saturday evening, just as the Jewish Sabbath would have begun from Friday evening. In that way, Christians can still remain faithful to the significance of worshipping the Lord on a Sunday as a church.

As a Presbyterian pastor, I can in fact go one step further to take into consideration what Scripture says with regard to the question of worshipping on a Saturday evening. Regarding the keeping of special days, the Bible says that whether a person considers one day to be sacred, or everyday to be sacred, it is fine as long as he does so to the Lord (Rom 14:6). No one is supposed to make the observance of certain days a legal requirement (Gal 4:9-10), nor should Christians allow anyone to judge them on such a basis (Col 2:16-17).

Admittedly, the original contexts of these biblical injunctions are not whether a church can worship on a day other than Sunday. Nonetheless, I think the overall principle that can be drawn from these passages is that the specific day in which the church gathers is itself not the most crucial issue. In other words, whether Christians come together for their weekly worship on a Saturday evening or a Sunday, there is some room for flexibility. Then again, given the deep significance of Christian worship on a Sunday mentioned earlier (with Saturday evening being an acceptable time-frame according to the Jewish reckoning), I would not venture further to suggest that any day of the week would be acceptable. It is still important, in my view, for the church service to gravitate towards the Lord’s Day (Sunday) itself, which is how Christians have regarded it since the earliest times.

Given the long-term implications of the severe cost of land use in Singapore, it is time for Christians to rethink their use of the available church space. It is not just about using the church premises for running other community services like kindergartens during the week. It is also about allowing the church to accommodate a much larger number of believers. This must first begin with a renewal of our understanding of worship, and a reconsideration of what it means to come together as a congregation to render praise to God as a body of Christ, when we listen to the proclamation of his word. It requires a rethinking of our theology, and a recalibration of our set practices. This is something that the theologians from the West do not need to address, since it is not the situation their churches are facing! If churches in Singapore are able to make adjustments and seriously consider having worship services on Saturday evenings in addition to Sunday, it would contribute significantly towards alleviating our space constraints in the long term.

May the Lord grant us wisdom as we make decisions that would serve the interests of the kingdom of God and remain faithful to his sacred word! Amen.

Rev Dr Leonard Wee is New Testament lecturer at Trinity Theological College (TTC), and an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church in Singapore. He obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Durham and holds degrees from the National University of Singapore (B.B.A.) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.).

The Politicisation of Science

August 2018 Pulse

The Swedish meteorologist working in the UK, Lennart Bengtsson, is without doubt one of the most respected climate scientists in the fraternity. In April 2014, Bengtsson joined the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think tank that raised questions concerning the current ‘consensus’ on climate change based on data.

Bengtsson pointed out that climate change predictions that are based on computer models might not give the true picture of the actual state of global warming. ‘Since the end of the 20th century’, he said, ‘the warming of the Earth has been much weaker than what climate models show’.

Note that Bengtsson did not deny that global warming was occurring. He merely raised the scientifically valid question about the accuracy of model simulations and pointed out that observational results have differed.

Shortly after raising this issue, Bengtsson faced the ire of the climate community for challenging the prevailing orthodoxy. He came under such unbearable pressure from his colleagues that he was forced to resign from the think tank.

‘I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that has become virtually unbearable for me’, he writes. ‘If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety’.

He adds: ‘Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship, etc. I see no limit and end to what will happen’.

The politicisation of science is an inevitable fact, argues Roger Pielke in The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics. Politics is enmeshed in many of the hot-button issues raised by the biological sciences, including evolution, stem cell research and protection of endangered species.

‘The only time you can stay above the fray is when you are a grad student’, says Pielke in an interview. ‘The minute you have to file a grant proposal with NSF or NIH, you’re in the realm of connecting science with the world outside of science’.

That science should be the candidate for politicisation should not surprise us. In the modern world, scientific authority is replacing religious authority, and the pronouncements from the scientific community have achieved the status of dogma. ‘The scientists have spoken’ appears to be an updated version of ‘This is the Word of the Lord’.

Science has ventured beyond the laboratories and exerted its influence in almost every aspect of society. Science has pontificated on how parents should raise their children, how relationships should be conducted, how we should have sex and what food we should eat.

In an age of moral relativism, as politicians find it more and more difficult to justify their agendas and ideologies by moral arguments, science has become an invaluable ally. The authority of science is asserted surely but subtly in our habits of discourse across the disciplines.

For example, with regard to climate change, Sir David Read, the vice-president of the Royal Society, is reported to have said: ‘The science very clearly points towards the need for us all – nations, businesses and individuals – to do as much as possible, as soon as possible, to avoid the worst consequences of climate change’.

The profound significance of the definite article before the word ‘science’ must not be missed. As Frank Furedi puts it, ‘“The Science” is a deeply moralised and politicised category’. Science is hailed as an authority that demands almost unquestioning submission.

The politicisation of science is an extremely complex and multifaceted phenomenon.

One the one hand, we have politicians commandeering scientific evidence – albeit selectively and at times even dishonestly – to advance their own political agendas. On the other, we also see scientists jumping on this bandwagon and aligning their scientific findings to certain ideological commitments.

Politicians and scientists could respond to the same published research in dramatically opposing ways, depending on which side of the political fence they happen to be situated. A case in point is the 2003 paper published in Climate Research that argued that from a millennial perspective climate changes in the 20th century are unremarkable.

Advocacy groups comprising politicians and scientists who oppose the Kyoto Protocol on climate change praised the paper as a sterling example of ‘sound science’. But the groups that supported the Protocol immediately denigrated it as ‘junk science’.

This example makes it painfully clear that issues like global warming are no longer of just scientific concern. They have become political causes. As Kim Holmes observes, ‘Political activism has so penetrated the science of climate change that one can barely tell the difference between a United Nations conference of scientists on global warming and a rally of political activists lobbying governments to adopt controls on carbon emissions’.

To make matters worse, there is also considerably bullying going on in the scientific fraternity. Those who dare to question the findings and conclusions of the majority or contradict the prevailing orthodoxy are sometimes humiliated and ostracised.

Such baneful attempts to shame and shun dissenters go against the spirit of science, which encourages open inquiry. But it shows just how politicised science can be in our modern world.

It should be noted that both the political right and left are guilty of the politicisation of science, even as they blame each other for this crime. So, if as Pielke points out the politicisation of science is a fact of life, what should our response to this state of affairs look like?

For the Christian, both science and politics are moral activities that should be carried out in the service of the truth. While the politicisation of science cannot be entirely avoided, one should nonetheless always strive for an ever-greater objectivity and truthfulness.

To begin with, scientists should be more self-conscious of their political commitments and scrupulously avoid conflating science with ideology in a way that is misleading.

In addition, scientists should also make it clear to the public when they are engaged in advocacy. And instead of merely championing a particular cause, scientists should clarify how the data allows for a variety of policy choices.

Pielke and others have argued that both scientists and politicians must understand the difference between politics and policy. The political perspective is necessarily narrow, limiting the range of alternatives as it pursues a particular agenda and desired outcome.

However, as Pielke explains in an article entitled, ‘When Scientists Politicise Science’, ‘For science, a policy perspective implies increasing or elucidating the range of alternatives available to decision-makers by clearly associating the existing state of scientific knowledge with a range of choices’.

One way in which science can be depoliticised, Pielke suggests, is to ‘ask scientists to participate in the process of connecting science with policy alternatives, to explicitly consider what alternatives are and are not consistent with scientific understandings in relation to different valued outcomes’.

Finally, both scientists and politicians need to achieve a more realistic appreciation of the possibilities and limits of science. Sobriety is the best response to scientism’s distorting portrayal of science and its alleged omnicompetence.

A sober appreciation of science would lead us to conclude that although science is helpful in many ways, it can never be the sufficient basis for solving the world’s problems. By itself, science cannot even resolve political debates on important issues.

To accord science with the competence it does not in fact possess and to use it for political ends is to court disaster for the human community.

As Daniel Kemmis perceptively argues: ‘… the repeated invocation of good science as the key to resolving complex ecosystem problems has itself become bad science. What is infinitely worse is that this bad science is all too readily made the servant of bad government’.


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor for the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.

The Bible and Disability

August 2018 Credo

Secular scholars who write on disability are often critical of religious accounts mostly because of the latter’s allegedly negative approaches. They point out that in Christianity – for example – disability is often associated with sin and divine punishment.

To be sure, there are passages in the Bible that speak of God inflicting disabilities such as blindness as punishment for sin and disobedience. For example, we find in Leviticus clear warnings that disease and disability are some of the dire consequences of idolatry: ‘I will bring upon sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain your life away’ (26: 16).

In similar vein, the Deuteronomist lists insanity and blindness as possible punishment for disobedience: ‘The Lord will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind, and you shall grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness’ (Deuteronomy 28:28-29).

Not only does the Bible associate disability with sin, it even appears to exclude people of disabilities from participating in the worship of God in the temple.

For example, in Leviticus we read: ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer bread of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand …’ (Leviticus 21: 16-19).

Judith Adams succinctly summarises this passage thus: ‘In the most perfect of places – that is, the temple – in the presence of the most perfect entity – that is, God – only the perfect of persons, someone of unblemished priestly lineage and perfect physical form, may offer up sacrifices (which must also be unblemished)’.

Christian authors like Nancy Eiseland have eschewed traditional interpretations of these passages and advanced a new hermeneutic – in her case, liberationist – in order to make sense of them. To Eiseland, traditional hermeneutics must be rejected because it is in subtle ways complicit in the unjust discrimination and ostracization of people with disabilities.

‘The history of the church’s interaction with the disabled’, she writes rather despairingly in Disabled God, ‘is at best an ambiguous one. Rather than being a structure for empowerment, the church has more often supported the societal structures and attitudes that have treated people with disabilities as objects of pity and paternalism’.

However, to focus only on what some passages have to say about disabilities and neglect the others is to fail to appreciate the Bible’s nuanced and complex treatment of the issue.

For example, alongside the passage in Leviticus cited above we have this remarkable injunction: ‘You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord’ (Leviticus 19:14).

The juxtaposition of such passages should give pause to any reader who is inclined to conclude, all too hastily, that the Bible puts disabled people in a negative light or that it encourages their oppression.

The careful reader of the Old Testament cannot fail to notice that in the remarkable passages that speak of the restoration of Israel, the inclusion of people with disabilities are repeatedly (and quite deliberately) mentioned.

An example of such a passage is Jeremiah 31 where God reassures his exiled people that they will return to a restored Jerusalem: ‘Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest part of the earth, among them the blind and the lame’ (v 8).

In similar vein, in Micah we read: ‘In that day, declares the Lord, I will assemble the lame … and the lame will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation’ (4:6, 7).

Scripture does not only speak of the inclusion of disabled people, but their healing and restoration as well.

‘In that day’, Isaiah writes, ‘the deaf will hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see’ (29: 18). And again: ‘Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer and the tongue of the mute sing for joy’ (35:5-6).

These passages about restoration and healing in the OT surely anticipate the ministry of Jesus himself, who in inaugurating God’s kingdom healed the sick and people with disabilities. The healing miracles of Jesus are signs of the divine kingdom that will be consummated when Jesus returns, a new heavens and a new earth free from sin, disease and disabilities.

To understand what the Bible has to say about disabilities, one must therefore go beyond the exegesis of individual texts and get a sense of the profound and comprehensive picture it presents – of creation, human beings as bearers of the divine image, the fall and redemption.

Most significantly, we have to glean what the Bible has to say about the eschaton, the consummation of the kingdom of God, the universal resurrection and the transfiguration of this sin-marred world into the new creation.

However, this eschatological vision – found in Scripture and taught by the Church – is seen by some theologians writing on disability not as a testimony of hope but rather as the basis for discrimination. This is truly regrettable.

But this stupendous vision of the things to come is indispensable if we are to achieve a realistic appreciation of the world in which we live.

As Wolfhart Pannenberg has put it: ‘Only in the light of the eschatological consummation is the verdict justified that in the first creation story the Creator pronounced at the end of the sixth day when he had made the first human pair: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Only in the light of the eschatological consummation may this be said of our world as it is in all its confusion and pain’.

Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor for the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.