Hwang, Andrew and Goh, Samuel (2001). Asia Bible Commentary: Song of Songs. India: Theological Book Trust. (Book Review by Ng Peh Cheng)
   
Song of Songs is inundated with questions about its authorship, dating, approaches to interpretation and the notable controversy of including the Book that deals with romance and sexuality in the Holy Bible.  Scholars have spent much time in researching and uncovering evidence to defend their positions against other arguments.  While the scholastic exercise is much appreciated in commentaries on the Song of Songs, the essence of the message may be lost in the technicality of scholastic pursuit.  In their determination to improve on the apparent weakness, both Dr. Hwang and Rev. Goh co-wrote the commentary to produce a commentary that is "scholarly solid yet practical" (p.9).
     The approach renders the commentary user-friendly for pastors and lay Christians and this is clearly illustrated in the construction of each passage of the Song.  Each passage begins with an introduction followed by an exegesis and concluded with reflections to guide readers to ponder on their existential personal and cultural issues of male-female relationship, marriage and sexuality.  Readers are strongly urged to search for God's Word to examine the issues and evaluate the practices of physical intimacy before marriage, cohabitation, physical beauty and adornment versus inner beauty for women, secret of staying married, appreciating "God's gift of sex within marriage" (p. 109) and other related concerns. 
     Discussing the issues and practices in the context of Asia, the authors are inviting Asian Christians to rethink some of their dearly held Asian values on marriage and sexual morality, "In most Asian cultures, the primary purpose of marriage is procreation."  In the Song, "it hardly speaks of procreation, . . . it simply indicates that it is not its concern.  Its primary concern is rather love" (p.36).  Another intent of the authors is to warn readers against the corrupted postmodern thinking and values on love and dating,  "The Song reveals that getting passionate yet remaining self-controlled is a delicate art in courtship. . . . To the world, dating is an art of self-gratification. . . . As today's pop culture would tell us, dating is about feelings. You can do anything, so long as you feel good. . . . makes dating a dangerous game," resulting in unwanted "teenage pregnancies, babies born out of wedlock and abortions in urbanized societies in Asia" (pp. 58-59).
     From Christian Education perspective, the commentary is a valuable resource for imparting sexuality education to teenagers, a wisdom literature for married couples to attain a long lasting marriage and a counselling guide for pre-marital counselling. 

Note: Rev. Samuel Goh will be tutoring BH 111, Semester 1, 2002.

Christian Leadership in a Political Context
     Rev. Peter Eng gave the chapel message on 19 Wednesday, 2001.  His message challenges Christians to reflect on the issue of civil obedience/disobedience in the New Testament.  He provided the following summary to represent his thinking and research on the issue concerned.
     From his birth, Jesus impacted the political world.  Matthew recorded Herod's reaction to his birth by a slaughter of the innocents.  Luke tells us that a decree of Augustus caused Jesus to be born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of prophecy.  At his execution, Jesus was charged with sedition against the Roman Empire.  It is therefore strange that Christians should insist loudly on the separation of faith and politics.
     The precise political situation of the early church was constant political restriction and occasional persecution.  Careful study should bring us to principles of political engagement under similar conditions, and experience the success of the early church in accomplishing the Christian agenda without armed struggle or compromise.
     Current Christian thinking on politics is largely limited to Jesus' statement on paying tax to Caesar and Romans 13.  These are typically misinterpreted to mean separation of church and state, and of blind obedience to the political powers.  In the twentieth century, this resulted in the mass apostasy of the church in Germany and Japan during WW2.
     When we ask about the effects of incarnation on the Roman world, three neglected points ought to be raised: (1) The imperial cult was the fastest growing religion in the first century and the NT silence on the imperial cult demands is too loud to ignore.  (2) The Roman authorities exercised an ancient but severe form of censorship which would restrict what the Christian writers could openly say.  (3)The success of the early church in light of the thoroughly adverse Jewish and Roman response would have required strong spiritual leadership.
     The NT gave qualified submission to Rome.  This is seen in a variety of ways.  (1) The prohibition of lawsuits among believers was based on the Christian community being responsible for their own juridical concerns, in the same vein that the Jewish communities in the Roman Empire adjudicated their own disputes.  This limited Christian acknowledgement of Roman sovereignty in one essential expression of sovereignty--the judiciary.  (2) The imperial cult was roundly denounced in the death of Herod Antipas in Acts 12 by the use of a Jewish foil to establish a principle of how no ruler had the right to divine honours. (3) The command to love God supremely and Jesus' demand that his disciples had to love him more than father or mother, and the priority of kingdom ties were against the backdrop the sacramentum, the oath of loyalty to Caesar, which required loyalty to Caesar above family loyalties.  The demands of Jesus should be seen as a direct challenge to Caesar's demands.  (4) The highly critical representations of the Roman Empire in Revelation were crouched in apocalypticism, reflecting political engagement of faith and politics in overt expressions. (5) The Kingdom of God has been mostly described rather than defined.  It is no coincidence that this potentially political issue was handled by way of parables.  The deliberate avoidance of a definition was in itself politically telling.
     Christians should rethink our political engagement.  The past mistakes of the Roman Catholic Church's domination and the resulting persecution and the mistakes of liberation theology must not cause Christians to disengage.  In our lifetime, there is hardly any Christian politician though there are many politicians who happen to be Christians.  This is because the Christian community has not developed a theology of politics that is truly biblical.  Perhaps this season of nativity is occasion for us to rethink the political dimensions of our faith.  The political relevance of Jesus was expressed so clearly in the four songs of Christmas in Luke 1-2.

Chapel Speaker for this week (26 Dec) will be Dr Ng Peh Cheng. Come & join us at 12 noon, Room 302.

  1. Register NOW.  Just a reminder ... Bioethics by Dr Douglas Milne will commence on 5 Jan at 7:30pm at the Sanctuary, Zion BP Church, 4 Bishan St 13.
    The dates for the 2 courses are as follow:

  • Bioethics (TS270, 1.5 credits, $150), Dates: 5, 11, 12 & 18 Jan; 7.30-10.30pm
  • Christian Ethics (TS252, 3 credits, $300), Dates: 7, 8, 10, 14, 15, 17, 21 & 22 Jan; 7.30-10.30pm
  1. Biblical Hebrew I. Please take note of the change of dates and venue for this course.  Classes will be held on Tuesdays, from 7.30-9.30pm at Clementi Bible Centre, Conference Rm, Level 3. The dates are: Feb 5, 19, 26; Mar 5, 12, 19, 26; Apr 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 and May 7, 14, 21, 28.

  2. Video Class on Skills in Lay Counselling (I). This course taught by Dr Tan Siang Yang will be tutored by Mr Yam Keng  Mun. Note the dates for the following sessions:

  • Jan 10 - Orientation; Jan 30 - Tutorial 1;  Feb 20 - Practicum 1; Mar  6 - Tutorial 2; Mar 20 - Practicum 2; Apr 3 - Tutorial 3; Apr 17 - Practicum 3; May 8 - Review; May 22 - Exam.

  • Tutor's Profile: Mr Yam is a Clinical Psychologist in private practice and co-ordinator of a lay counselling ministry at Woodlands Evangelical Free Church.  After completing a B.A. from Moody Bible Institute, he served as a pastor before obtaining a M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Midwestern State University, Texas, U.S.A.  He is married with two children, ages 9 and 6.

  1. Mrs Esther Quek will be organising a Garage Sale to raise funds for BGST. We would be grateful if you could help as volunteers on 11 Jan (Friday) and/or 12 Jan (Saturday) in sorting out the items for sale. Please contact Serene at 3538071 for more details if you are available to help.

  2. Dr Quek will be away in the Philippines from 25 Dec 2001 to 2 Jan 2002. If you need to contact him, please do so via email at bgstdean@starhub.net.sg.

Wishing you God's blessings on your Birthday!

Mr Beh Soo Yeong  24/12
Dr Chan Shaw Yan  24/12
Mr Jack Lim Choon Haw  24/12
Mrs Rina Lai-Teo  26/12
Mr Stephen Yung  26/12
Dr Ng Liang Wei  30/12

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This page is updated on 26 Dec 2001
Oct 2000