updated on 2 Jul 2001 (best view with netscape communicator 4.77)

You have probably often come across the terms ‘postmodernism’, ‘postmodern’ and ‘postmodernist’ in the last decade, and you may be aware, if only slightly, of the contemporary debate lying behind those terms. If you have been tempted to ignore this debate as something irrelevant to you, or as too technical to come to grips with, this week’s Good Book may be for you. 
     In Guide to Contemporary Culture (Leicester: Crossway, 1994) G.E. Veith, who teaches English at Concordia University, Wisconsin, introduces and discusses postmodernism. He shows that it is a way of thinking that influences many areas of our lives, and has even found its way into the church. Postmodernism, as the name implies, may be contrasted with modernism. Modernism was in many ways hostile to Christianity, but at least shared with Christianity the belief that truth is something that can be discovered by the appropriate use of reason. Modernist and Christian views of what is true differed, but the quest for truth was seen as a worthwhile endeavour. Postmodernism denies this fundamental assumption: according to postmodern thinking, there is no single truth about the world ‘out there’ (as the X-Files put it) waiting to be discovered; there are only different views of the truth, advocated by different groups of people. Truth, in postmodern thinking, is not ‘discovered’, but ‘constructed’ by each individual: depending on our experiences, our biases, and our social location, we each order our perceptions of reality to produce our own vision of what is true. The result is that, whereas to a modernist it would have been absurd to claim that something can be ‘true for me’ if it is not true for all, to a postmodernist this claim is almost a fundamental tenet. Indeed, to claim that one’s beliefs are universally true is seen as a mark of great arrogance and intolerance.
         Is this starting now to seem somewhat more relevant to your concerns? Have you, in your attempts to share the gospel, met with the response that it is arrogant to say that Jesus is the only way of salvation, and Christianity the only way to God? 

Have you encountered the claim that how one expresses one’s sexuality is simply a matter of choice, with no (or very few) forbidden options? What about the view that spiritual experience is as important as biblical truth (‘head-knowledge’)? Veith shows how postmodern ways of thinking can be found in many areas of society: views of reality; views of what it means to be human; art; architecture; literature and films; politics; religion. He writes clearly and attractively, and has obviously reflected deeply about the issues he discusses. While some of what he says focuses on American culture, there is much that is relevant to the Singapore scene.
       This is not a one-sided presentation. Veith is perfectly prepared to give credit where credit is due. He notes that postmodernism has been effective in undermining some aspects of modernism, for instance modernism’s claim to offer an ‘objective’ and ‘scientific’ approach to truth. (There were many hidden assumptions in the modernist enterprise, often deeply anti-Christian ones.) For some people, therefore, postmodernism may have removed obstacles to Christian belief. But in many of its forms it is itself hostile to Christianity. Above all, it is a trend with which most of us will have to come to grips in one form or another in our attempts to communicate the gospel. This stimulating and well-focussed book will help you to do that. (PES)

       Mrs. Peck (to whom we say ‘Welcome back’) has provided the following summary of her sharing at Chapel last Wednesday.
      Since I was not ready yet to share about my studies in Israel, I picked two of the lessons I learnt for last week’s chapel time.
      The first lesson was learned in Sde Boqer Kibbutz vineyard. The leader of the research team very graciously gave me his time and explained some interesting facts about growing vines. The desert soil of the Negev has minimal rainfall and scarce water supply. Whatever water exists is brackish and salty and not suitable for vegetation including most vines. 

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How then do you grow a vineyard in the desert? The ground was planted with wild grapes, which are able to survive in such soil with brackish water. Later on, choice grapevines were grafted onto these wild-grape trunks. The branches ensuing take the nourishing sap from the wild-grape trunk but the fruit produced is choice grapes for the production of specific wines. I invite you to read Rom. 11:17-24 and see how this ancient agricultural practice was used by Paul to illustrate a vital point for us Gentile Christians.
        Another lesson I learned was from Nazareth Village. What was a first century village house like - the kind that our Lord probably lived and grew up in? In a project called Nazareth Village Project, a re-construction of a first century village house has been erected. It was exciting to see what we only read about in books. 
      When Joseph and his wife Mary journeyed to Bethlehem for the census (Lk. 2), they must have had a fantastic reunion with relatives who had come from all over. They probably spent the nights in the guest-room (an upper chamber above the family room called kataluma in Greek). This word occurs three times in the New Testament. In the other two instances, it has been translated ‘guestroom’, but here in Luke 2:7, it has traditionally been rendered ‘inn’. But did Joseph and Mary leave their family home when delivery time was near and go out to look for an inn? And did they find ‘no room for them in the inn’? It seems more appropriate to render kataluma in this verse too as ‘guestroom’. There were too many relatives crowding in there and so it was decided that Mary should use the lower ‘storage’ chamber to give birth to her firstborn son in greater privacy. Not that we should throw out cherished Christmas carols. But it’s good to learn a little more about the world of the Bible, and thus come to understand the biblical text itself better.

Join us this Wednesday at 12 pm for prayer and worship. Dr Philip Satterthwaite will lead chapel.

We wish these who celebrate their birthdays this week God's richest blessings.


Courses still Open: Last Call
The following courses are still open for registration:

  • To All People Everywhere: Biblical Theology of Missions (ME 103, Thurs 7-10 p.m.). A Biblical approach to an important area by a Jewish believer who has accepted the Messiah as his Lord.
  • Biblical Hebrew - Basic Research Tools (BH 214, Wed 7.00-9.00 p.m.) Come and learn to use the research tools without doing the language course! 
  • Old Testament Foundations I (OT 101, video class, Sat 3.00-5.00 p.m.) 
Occasional Lectures in Biblical Studies
         During Semester 2 Dr. Satterthwaite will be giving a series of occasional lectures on subjects relating to Biblical Studies. They are offered to all BGST students free of charge, and are designed to cover topics which are not easily included in our regular courses. Topics will include: Text and Canon of OT and NT; The World of the Bible; The Fulfilment of Prophecy. 
        The first of these lectures will take place on Friday 6th July, 7.30-9.30 pm, at BGST (Room 302). It will be on the topic ‘Where did our Bibles come from? Text of the Old Testament’. It will survey the manuscript evidence on which our OT is based, and attempt to answer questions such as ‘How reliable are our contemporary translations?’ ‘What about textual corruptions?’ It will be illustrated by some slides. 
           All are welcome to attend this lecture. If you are thinking of attending, could you inform the BGST Office? (353 8071)
          (Please note: if you took OT 102 in 1999 or OT/NT 102 in 2000, you will already have sat through an earlier form of this lecture.)

Public Lecture
          We are pleased to announce a Public Lecture given by Dr. Douglas Milne, Professor of Theology and Ethics at the Presbyterian Theological College, Melbourne. His topic will be ‘Who do you say that I am? The Truth about Jesus Christ’, a presentation of the Christian doctrine of the person and work of Christ, based on Matthew 16. The Lecture will take place at BGST on Saturday 14th July, 7.30-9.00 pm. Dr. Milne was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland, and is extensively involved in the work of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. He has taught both New Testament and Systematic Theology, and comes to us with a wealth of experience, academic and practical. We urge you to come to what we are sure will be a heart-warming presentation.

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