BIBLICAL GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY

Issue No. 43

10 - 16 November 2008

GOOD BOOK

Friends In A Broken World: Thoughts On Friendship From the Emmaus Road 
By Soo-Inn Tan 
Singapore: Graceworks Private Limited. 2008. 52 pp. 
Reviewed by Dr Ng Peh Cheng

What is friendship? 
What makes friendship spiritual?
What makes friendship both Christian and spiritual?

These questions may be an impetus for spending much time in library research to produce an academic piece of work to please the intellectual mind. But this has not been the intention of the author. Instead, Soo-Inn chose to meditate on the “friendship” encounter between the risen Lord and the two disciples on the Emmaus Road (Lk. 24:13-49) that forms the content of the book. The encounter inevitably transforms the lives and ministry of the disciples.

The need to have friends hits home when the author lost a beloved family member (chapter 1). The hope to live a “full life” seemed crushed, similar to the “disillusionment” of the two disciples whose “hope” for a Messiah went dead (Lk. 24:21). The personal tragedy gave rise to a realization of the need to have friends in a “world full of people with crushed hopes.”

Secondly, a “world full of people” is also experiencing fragmentation of relationships and loneliness alienated by the invasion of technology. He cites John Locke who foresaw in 1998 that “Computer-assisted communication is coming on like a steamroller, flattening intimate forms of self-expression”. One of the consequences predicted is that “... meeting or knowing someone whom we work with will be viewed as a coincidence.” He further warned, “A clock is ticking on our personal lives, and our communities, and our civic institutions. How much longer can we and our communities prosper with so little personal warmth and trust?” (p. 10).

Indeed, any society can boast of technological advancement but it cannot substitute the fundamental need of humankind – that is, friendship!

The book is the author’s response to the need to recover the value and practice of friendship. The purpose is to encourage transformation of lives through Scripture and friendship in a broken world.

An understanding of friendship begins with recognizing the divine friendship of Jesus who initiates the relationship, “... you are my friends” (Jn 15:15b) and sets the standard for true friendship (chapter 2). The third chapter spells out true friendship that interweaves the divine and the human, which Professor James Houston calls, “spiritual friendship,” or “a friendship in the company of Christ.” This means that “human friendship cannot replace divine friendship, so, “while we work to strengthen the friendships in our lives, we need to continue to nurture our friendship with Christ” (p. 23). One may also ask, “Can divine friendship replace human friendship?”

Another vital characteristic of true friendship that is Christian and spiritual is the habit of truthfulness, “True friends tell us what we need to know and not what we want to hear” (p. 27). Why? 

“Spiritual friends do not see us changing in ways that are harmful and keep silent. They ... care for us and do not want us to imperil the most promising possibility of our lives: our friendship with God” (quoting Paul J. Wadell, p. 27).

The truth on the contrary,

“It is much easier to flatter our friends than be truthful with them ... consoling one another with comforting deceptions instead of challenging one another with the truth (quoting Paul J. Wadell, p. 27).

Searching for friendship that is rooted in truth may be difficult but not impossible. Soo-Inn recounted numerous incidents in his life where he has learned to treasure true friendship (chapter 4). He believes that spiritual friendship can be cultivated and devotes the whole of chapter 5 on how it is best practiced. The emphasis is on face-to-face relationships which is biblical in contrast with the use of communication technology.

The information in the Appendix provides useful thinking on the art of practicing genuine friendship in the family, church cell groups and among friends (pp. 45-51). Soo-Inn and his wife, Bernice, have set up Graceworks in Singapore to “promote spiritual friendship in church and society.” Hence, help is at hand if readers wish to pursue further in the act of crafting friendship that is Christian and spiritual.

If “friendship between God and humankind is the ultimate goal of God’s grace and the spiritual journey,” (quoting Professor Paul Stevens, p.15), the book reiterates the hope and encouragement that believers do not have to walk that journey alone in the world of uncertainties!

Note: This book is available at the BGST Bookshop. Price: $9.00. BGST Alumni & students may get a discount. Call 62276815 for more information.

Weekly Highlights

Chapel Summary for 29 October ...
Rev George Barathan, who has served for 35 years with OM and is currently the OM Executive Director in Singapore, based his message on the story of Gideon in Judges 6. He drew out three main points from the passage: 

  1. God is not hesitant to use the most unlikely person for his kingdom work; 

  2. there is no success without obedience; and 

  3. God is patient in times of weakness to give strength. God is still looking for a Gideon today.

Are you the one?

Chapel This Week: Dr Philip Satterthwaite will continue his third sermon on Leviticus (in a series of five). 


Announcements

The home stretch for the BGST Fund-Raising Dinner is drawing very near. Please join the Dinner
Organising Committee in committing the following items to our Almighty God:

  1. Good stewardship of the 50 sponsored tables. May no seat or table be wasted.

  2. Smooth allocation of seats for the tables confirmed.

  3. All guests will receive a warm welcome from us.

  4. All who attend the Dinner will experience God's Presence.

  5. God's people will honour His Holy Name and be exemplary disciples at the function.

  6. BGST may attain the dual goals of this Dinner, i.e.
    - To create a higher level of awareness of BGST to those present; and 
    - To meet BGST’s financial needs.

  7. Uphold the speaker Dr Daniel Block who will be addressing the guests with God's message.

Admission is by invitation only.
For enquiries on hosting a table, please contact Serene at Tel: 62276815 or email serene@bgst.edu.sg .


Dr Daniel I. BlockCourse by Dr Daniel Block on Interpreting Ezekiel (OT367, 1.5 credits)
Dates: 18, 19, 24 & 25 November, 7.15-10.15pm. 


Ezekiel is often considered the lunatic of the Old Testament. Because of the bewildering opening vision, his strange street-theatrical performances, and his bizarre retelling of Israel’s story, well-intentioned people often give up on reading, let alone studying, the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was the only prophet to minister exclusively outside the land of Israel. Although his language and themes are firmly rooted in the literary traditions of the Sinai revelation and the book of Deuteronomy, many of his oracles betray the influence of the outside world, both in their language and in their motifs. At other times, the language he uses is simple Hebrew but his choice of expressions is shocking, bordering on pornographic (chaps. 16 and 23). Apparently, for him the only way to penetrate the hardened hearts of his audience and to wake them out of their lethargy was to use outrageous language and to reconstruct Israel’s history as God saw it in startling if not repugnant terms. Perhaps more than in other prophetic books, when we read this book we must ask a series of serious questions: 

  1. What does the text say? (the text-critical question); 

  2. What does the text mean? (the hermeneutical question);

  3. Why does he say it like that? (the literary question);

  4. What relevance does his message have for me? (the practical question). 

When we have explored the world in which Ezekiel lived and the audience to which he spoke, the answers to all these questions become clearer. 


Our recent public lecture, “Power and Spiritual Abuse” by Rev Adrian van Leen is now available online (click here to view).

Please share this blessing with others.

******************

Our heartfelt congratulations to Rev Hwang Jae Myeong for his recent ordination as a pastor with the Korean Association of Independent Churches and Mission on 23 October 2008 in Seoul, Korea. Jae Myeong has recently joined our MTh in Biblical Studies programme after completing his MDiv from SBC. He is a graduate of Seoul National University (Korea), Bond University (Australia) and has served as Asia Regional Director for an Australian bank before accepting God's call into full-time ministry. He currently worships at the International Baptist Church where he regularly teaches Adult Bible classes. Jae Myeong has a firm intention to pursue PhD studies, after completing his MTh. 

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