BGST this week issue 26
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Armand M. Nicholi, Jr. The Question of God.
New York: The Free Press, 2002.

BGST's latest acquisition, sub-titled "C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life," is not an explicitly Christian book. Dr Armand M Nicholi has done research on Freud and Lewis for more than 25 years and his lectures at Harvard University were well-received. Currently he is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital.
    Here are my impressions of the book. It is written for the non-technical person. The easy-to-read narrative style belies the seriousness of the subject. The treatment of the contrastive positions of Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis is clear, ample, and reveals the broad perspective of the author who quotes Chesterton, Thomas a Kempis and others with ease. He tries to bridge the important gap between knowing (What should we believe?) and doing (How should we live?). The conclusion is revealing. Nicholi asks: "What accounts for the profound impact the writings of C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud continue to have on our culture a half century after their deaths? One reason ... may be that, whether we realize it or not, we all embrace some form of either the materialist worldview advocated by Freud or the spiritual worldview advocated by Lewis. But there may be more subtle reasons. Perhaps Freud and Lewis represent conflicting parts of ourselves. One part raises its voice in defiance or authority, and says with Freud, "I will not surrender"; another part, like Lewis, recognizes within ourselves a deep-seated yearning for a relationship with the Creator" (p.242). We acknowledge the tussle within us that Paul wrote about in Romans 7. But that does not mean that on the down side we must embrace the worldview of Freud. I find that for all his efforts to plumb the depths of Lewis's thinking, the author has not correctly interpreted Lewis, whose writings must be seen in the light of his tormented search for the truth. He may have spoken of a need for "willful blindness" and admit to a "deep-seated hatred of authority." But it to his credit that Lewis finally yielded to the authority of the Bible. So Dr Nicholi's conclusion cannot represent what Lewis actually believed. When he arrived at the point of conviction that Christianity was his faith of choice, when he was "surprised by joy", Lewis would not have agreed totally with the following statement: "We must ... be careful not to conceptualize or judge God by the faulty actions of his fallible creatures, whether those in the Bible [or] ..." (p.243). The reluctance to acknowledge the truth as represented in the Bible was never a position taken  by Lewis as a Christian. 
    "What should we believe?" The agreement between Freud and Lewis is very basic, namely, that "the answer to the question of God has profound implications for our lives here on earth." But from this point their views diverged radically. Dr Nicholi adds: "So we owe it to ourselves to look at the evidence, perhaps beginning with the Old and New Testaments. Lewis also reminds us, however, that the evidence lies all around us: This is what he proposed: 'We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always easy to penetrate. The real labor is to remember to attend. In fact to come awake. Still more to remain awake.' "  His appeal to Lewis is misleading. He writes as an agnostic; Lewis wrote as a theist especially after his conversion.
    This book received rave reviews. It is a good representative not only of a popular postmodern position, but also of the failure of many to understand what C. S. Lewis really held as a Christian. (QSH)

SHARPEN YOUR CHRISTIAN LIFE
by Dr John Lim

     A young lumberjack once challenged an older co-worker to a contest.  "Let's see who can fell the most trees in a single day," he boasted. By sundown it was obvious that the older lumberjack had won hands down.  The younger fellow couldn't figure it out.  He had chopped non-stop all day, while the older lumberjack had stopped every hour.  When asked, the older man explained, "Every time I sat down, I was sharpening my ax."  The young man who too busy cutting down trees to stop and sharpen his ax lost the contest.
     A Christian who wants to count for the Lord needs to take time to "sharpen" his life regularly.  Such time is well spent, not wasted.  Jesus was always busy, but never in a hurry.  He was always under pressure to respond to the needs of people, yet He was at peace.  He spent time away to recharge His spiritual batteries.  We need to do the same. Let me share with you four ways to "sharpen our spiritual edge.
WAYS TO SHARPEN OUR SPIRITUAL EDGE

  1. Relaxation
    Rest is not merely an optional ingredient in the Christian life.  When we live life at a frantic pace it will lead to exhaustion and will rob us of the joy, love, and compassion that should characterize our lives.  God even gave us instructions about resting in the Ten Commandments.  In Exo. 20:8-11, Moses spoke of the Creator resting on the Sabbath which is an example for all Christians to rest too.

  2. Relationship
    Time alone with the Father was a priority for Jesus, even when He had to get up early and go outside to get it.  Mk. 1:35 "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.  If the Son of God needed that, how much more do we?  There are three phases to deepening our relationship with God:

  • We need to come to Him.  He invites us, but we must respond with faith.
  • Commitment is the next step. This is a step of obedience.  We cannot grow spiritually without obedience. 
  • God wants us to communicate with Him.  Religious activities are no substitute for building a relationship with God.  Daily time in prayer and Bible study is essential.
  1. Learning
    For many Christian intellectual growth stops when they finish school.  They are too busy (either working or being entertained) to read or write or study.  Believers need to be on the cutting edge if we are to meet the challenges facing the church today.  The goal of lifelong learning, though, is not just information---it is transformation, which brings me to the final way to sharpen our Christian life.
  2. Transformation
    In Rom. 12:1-2 Paul says, "I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God---this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing and perfect will."

    Many Christians today learned a lot.  But they have stopped there.  There is no commitment to put feet to what they have learned.  I remember taking one day to look at my library and to my surprise I found out that I had so many manuals from going to seminars and workshops.  I have hopped from one to another just for the sake of gaining knowledge.  And I thought to myself if I were to practice what I had learned it would have really benefited not only the church but myself as well.  Seminars and workshops on prayer, evangelism, etc…  I have discovered that oftentimes we learned but lack the commitment to put into practice what we have learned.  Consequently, we are not transformed by what we had learned.
     One of the problems with us that we are willing to be living sacrifices.  We sacrificed money and time to attend such meetings and seminars and workshops.  But alas living sacrifices can crawl off the altar.  Many Christians today come into the church on Sunday and sing; "Onward Christian Soldiers."  But they go AWOL on Monday.  While it is good to keep on learning we must not forget that we need to put feet to our faith or else learning is in vain.
     I remember that as a young boy I used to visit the "pasar malam" in our village.  At the end of the "Q" there will be a place cordoned off with a big box in the centre.  You have to pay to look into the box.  I was very curious so I saved enough money one night to go in and get a glimpse at what was in it.  I looked into the box and guess what I saw?  I saw this body.  He looked up at me and smiled.  Nothing unusual.  I saw a boy or a man with a big head but a small body.  As I think back to that night I feel we have a lot of Christians today who are just like that.  They have big heads but short body.  They do not grow.  They have learned much but they have practiced little.
     So learning is good but if it is not expressed in life we can become stunted.  And that is not good.

CONCLUSION
    
Three ways we can sharpen our Christian life: relaxation, building our relationship with God and learning to put into practice---put feet to our faith.  That can transform our lives to be pleasing to Him.

Chapel speaker for Wednesday, 26 June, was Rev Ng Seng Chuan. Next week's chapel speaker will be Dr Peter Tow, who was formerly a lecturer at the Singapore Bible College, pastored for 17 years and since 1994 was a missionary with Global Missions Partnership, ministering in the Ukraine and in other countries. He will give a Powerpoint presentation on mission work in the Ukraine.

  1. CHURCH HISTORY FIELD TRIP.  On Saturday, July 13, 2002, Dr Quek is leading an one-day field trip to Melaka entitled, "A Tale of Three Churches". This is in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the foundational course in Church History, CH 101. So far 27 have registered. There is space for 13 more. We have booked Christ Church for a lecture session in which Dr Quek will compare the different approach to mission by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. There will be a Peranakan lunch, followed by a time for shopping. The total cost of the trip is $35 per person. Registration closes on July 1st. Please make payment to "BGST" and indicate "CH101 Field Trip" behind the cheque.

  2. TENT MODULE ON THEOLOGY OF WORK. The new dates for the course will be 16, 23 & 30 July. Time for each session remains unchanged (ie. from 7.30-9.30pm). For those who are interested in tentmaking ministry, it is still not too late to register. Drop us an email at tent@bgst.edu.sg.

  3. CONGRATULATIONS! We rejoice with Mr Yong Pin Yoon & Mrs Susie Yong on the arrival of the 3rd child. May the Lord bless both of them with great joy of parenting!

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Wishing you God's blessings on your Birthday!
Pastor David Yap Lip Tiong  24/6
Mr Benjamin Koe  26/6
Ms Priscilla Chia Siam Choo  27/6
Mr Vincent Lim Choon Peng  27/6
Ms Lynette Low Li Liang  27/6
Mrs Loh Yiau Leng  28/6
Dr Ng Peh Cheng  29/6
Mrs Sonali Peters  29/6

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This page is updated on 17Jun 2002 by Leong Kok Weng
    © Jun 2002

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