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Issue No. 19

11 - 17 May 2009

Chapel Notes

by Dr Philip Satterthwaite

Rev Jimmy TanOn 6 May Rev Jimmy Tan of Bethel Presbyterian Church addressed us on the topic: ‘Saved by Grace; Disciplined by Effort: Are the Two Contrary? Theological Reflections and Pastoral Concerns’. He began with two questions raised by Simon Chan in his book, Spiritual Theology:

  • If life in Christ is received as a free gift (that is, by grace), what part does human effort play in furthering that life?

  • Should grace be seen as a divine favour or as an enabling gift?’ Reformed theology has tended to emphasise the first of these and to be suspicious of the second; but perhaps we should be thinking in terms of ‘both … and’ rather than ‘either … or’?

Or again: do we think of the Christian life primarily as fostering a relationship with God (which may result in a quite relaxed attitude towards the spiritual disciplines) or do we see it as involving the cultivation of virtues (in which case we may set about the task in a more focused way, and perhaps even seek instruction in the techniques of cultivation)? Again, the question seems to pose a false alternative. Passages such as Rom. 5:1-11 make clear that our relationship with God (the assurance that God now views us as his friends) leads to character development (the cultivation of virtues). We can compare the texts in 1 and 2 Timothy where Paul tells Timothy ‘train yourself for godliness’ (1 Tim. 4:7) and ‘fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of hands’ (2 Tim. 1:6). Paul’s words in Philippians 2:12 are also apt: ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and work for his good pleasure’ (Phil. 2:12-13).

But we tend to polarize what Scripture holds together. We either place too much emphasis on grace as divine favour, so that our view of growth in the Christian life does not progress beyond the phrase ‘Let go and let God’; or we don’t know how to let go so that God can do something in us. We need to recapture the balance expressed in Augustine’s words: ‘Without God, we cannot; without us, he will not.’

Having set out this framework for understanding spiritual growth, Rev. Tan then addressed four relevant pastoral concerns:

  1. The tendency for Christians to go to extremes, emphasizing either God’s grace or human effort. Instead, we should seek a balance, arising out of a confidence that God’s love has set us free.
  2. We tend to see spiritual disciplines as a series of transactions that will lead to a desired end. But our focus should be more relational, enjoying the process for itself and not for its perceived benefits.
  3. We tend to have wrong conceptions of God, which need to be addressed by reading, by tutoring and by learning in community.
  4. We are often spiritually aimless, having given no real thought to the question of what sort of person we might want to be in five or ten years’ time. Perhaps we need a plan for spiritual growth. After all, we plan most other aspects of our lives.

Questions that we might explore in developing a ‘Spiritual Growth Plan’ are the following:

  1. What is my dominant spiritual temperament? (One of the ways to determine your dominant spiritual temperament is to list those Christians whom you most admire and seek to emulate.)
  2. What is your vision for spiritual growth?
  3. Which discipline or virtue would you like to work on?
  4. What is your current life-setting?
  5. Who can help you? (This last question bringing out the point that some kind of spiritual direction may help us to see things more clearly.)

I have summarized Rev. Tan’s talk in some detail partly because it was a full and rich presentation which it was hard to do justice to in fewer words (even now I have left a fair amount unsummarised!); and partly as a kind of appetizer. Rev. Tan will be leading one of the workshops at our Inaugural Conference ‘Tending the Shepherds’ (29 June ­– 2 July). If you are interested in exploring the above issues, consider joining us then!

Weekly Highlights

Chapel speaker for 20th May is Dr Ng Peh Cheng. Chapel begins at 12pm every Wednesday. You are welcome to join us.

Courses Commencing next Semester One

The Educational Ministry of the Church (ECF500/CE101, 3 cr); July 7,14, 21, 28, Aug 4, 11, 18, 25 (Tue 7.15-10.15pm); Lecturer: Dr Ng Peh Cheng

Contemporary Theologian & Theologies (TS160, 3 cr)(Video class); July 7,14, 21, 28, Aug 4, 11, 18, 25, Sep 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, Oct 6, 13, 20 (Tue 7.30 - 9.30pm); Lecturer: Dr Douglas Milne; Tutor: Mr Edwin Tay

*Preaching in the Church: Homiletics II (AT245, 1.5cr); July 9, 16, 23, 30 (Thu 7.15-10.15pm);
Lecturer: Rev Song Cheng Hock

*Counselling Skills: Dealing with Crisis Situations (CO231, 1.5cr); July 9, 23, Aug 6, 20 (Thu 7.15-10.15pm); Lecturer: Mr Yam Keng Mun
Spirituality & Ministry [Work] (MM260, 3 cr);July 13, 20 27, Aug 3, 17, 24, 31, Sep 7 (Mon 7.15 -10.15pm) Lecturer: Mr John Chong Ser Choon

New Testament Foundations I (NT101, 3 cr); July 13, 20, 27,Aug 3, 17, 24, 31 Sep 7, 14, 28, Oct 5, 12, 19, 26; (14 sessions) (Mon 7.30 - 9.30pm); Lecturer: Dr Aquila Lee

Introduction to Evangelism & World Mission (ME101, 3 cr)(Video class) July 31, Aug 7, 14, 21, 28 (Fri 7.30– 9.30pm) Lecturer: Mr Martin Goldsmith; Tutor: Ms Irene Tay [Required for MDiv]

The Christian Mind (AT361, 1.5cr); Aug 3, 17, 24, 31 (Mon 7.15-10.15pm) Lecturer: Rev Dr David Wong

*Biblical Hebrew I (BH111, 3cr); Aug 5, 12, 19, 26, Sep 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, Oct 7, 14, 21, 28, Nov 4, 11, 18 (Wed 7.30-9.30pm) Lecturer: Dr Augustine Pagolu

Biblical Hermeneutics & Interpretation (HE101, 3 cr) Aug 26, Sep 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, Oct 7, 14, 21, 28, Nov 4, 11, 18, 25 (14 sessions) ( Wed  7.30 - 9.30pm) Lecturer: Dr Philip Satterthwaite

Globalization & Postmodernity: A Christian Response (MM258, 1.5cr) Aug 26, Sep 2, 9, (Wed)  15 (Tue) (Wed 7.15-10.15pm)  Lecturer: Mr Ben Pwee

Old Testament Foundations I (OT101, 3 cr) Aug 28, Sep 4, 11, 18, 25, Oct 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 Nov 6, 13, 20 Dec 4, 11,18 (Fri 7.30 – 9.30pm) Lecturer: Dr Philip Satterthwaite

* Courses marked with an asterisk are not offered on audit basis.
Registration is open for all courses. Visit www.bgst.edu.sg for course description and registration (under Course & Events/Course Schedules).

TENT Modules

Theology of Work, (new dates) May 13, 20 & 27 (Wed 7.20 - 10pm)Lecturer: Dr Toh See Kiat

Understanding Culture, Jun 16, 23, & Jul 7 (Tue 7.20 - 10pm) Lecturer: Dr Ng Peh Cheng

Biblical Basis for Tentmaking Mission, Jul 21, 28 (Tue 7.20 - 10pm) Lecturer: Mr Andre De Winne

Religions of Asia, Aug 4, 11, 18 (Tue 7.20– 10pm) Lecturer: Dr Augustine Pagolu & Ms Irene Tay

Coping With Stress, Aug 25, Sep 1, 8 (Tue 7.20 - 10pm) Lecturer: Mr Yam Keng Mun

Tentmakers & Ethical Issues, Sep 29, Oct 13, 20 (Tue 7.20-10pm) Lecturer: A Former Singaporean Tentmaker

Personal Ministry Skills, Nov 3, 10, 17 (Tue 7.20 - 10pm) Lecturer: Mr Toh Kai Hua

News Bits

The Library will be closed at 12noon on 23rd & 30th May so that the Library staff can prepare for the public lecture by Prof. Alister McGrath and our Convocation & Thanksgiving Service respectively.

BGST Bookshop has 4 paintings from PaintThru Gallery. Three of these are on sale at special discount to celebrate PaintThru 4th anniversary. These are original oils by Chinese artists. The Biblical art represents the artist's understanding of the Bible content. The contemporary scenes are often accessible only to local eyes. For details, visit : http://www.bgst.edu.sg/pdf/2009-paintings.pdf

2009 Annual Conference News & Update
“Tending the Shepherds ~ Feeding the Pastoral Care-Givers”
29 June ~ 2 July 2009 (Monday ~ Thursday)

Robert SolomonFrom our Conference Speaker


~ Feeding the Pastoral Care Givers
by Bishop Dr Robert Solomon
PhD (Pastoral Theology), Edinburgh University
Bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore

Jesus had a knack for cutting through the verbal jungle and pulling out life-giving words, pushing aside the debris of ideas to save the few that really matter. Therefore when He was asked which of the commandments (and the Jews claimed there were 613) was the greatest, Jesus referred to Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 as the two greatest commandments – our call to love God with all our being and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

These two commandments are two sides of the same coin; they go together.  This Conference will look at these two related commandments from God. My task is to explore what Scripture calls the “royal law” – to love our neighbours as ourselves (Jas. 2:8). What does it really mean? How important is this in our pastoral ministry? Bearing this in mind, in my three sessions, I hope to explore the following themes and questions.

In the first session, we will examine what it means to love our neighbours by using two case studies from the Bible. In an age where ministry has become professionalised in many ways, where celebrity Christianity is becoming normative, where secularisation, therapeutic and managerial techniques, and rampant individualistic consumerism have changed the face of ministry and the experience of care-giving, we do face many challenges in applying the second great commandment in our life and ministry. How can we ensure that we do minister with real compassion and love? What factors serve to prevent this from happening? What can we do to help us to be real neighbours to those around us?

In the second session, I will deal with the question: are we supposed to love ourselves? Is not Jesus contradicting Himself when he refers to our love for ourselves while at the same time pointing out the need to deny ourselves. We will explore from the Bible how this apparent contradiction can be resolved by using the concept of the false self and the true self. The human heart is deceitful, and sinful and pathological self-love can take on many different forms, including pious and religious ones. How can we differentiate between godly and healthy self-esteem and ungodly self-centredness and pride? I will be using an ancient medieval text written by a great spiritual writer to help us explore what it means to love ourselves and how this can be applied in daily life. We will also look at how personal transformation in community can affect the quality of our ministries.

The third session will then use a biblical text to examine what it means to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. We will pay particular attention to the poor and marginalised, who often become invisible and hidden neighbours in our lives and ministries. Scripture lays great emphasis on these people and their needs. We will see how this command from Jesus to love our neighbours in fact has a high standard and is impossible to achieve without divine grace. We will then conclude with some practical pointers on how to build into our lives values and habits that will help us practice the Lord’s second great commandment on a daily basis.

Pastors* today often feel that they are distracted or burning out; they do a hundred things but fear that there is little soundness within them and little love in what they do regularly. Whether their neighbours are their spouses, or children, or colleagues, or church members, or friends, or strangers, they feel that they are often way off from where Jesus wants them to walk. Why is this so, and what can we do about it? This Conference provides a wonderful opportunity for pastors and those in ministry to reflect, repair, and be renewed in their calling.

*This Conference is for all who are involved in ministering to others, pastors, ministers, cell group leaders, mission leaders and any Christian caring for another.

Don’t miss this Conference. Sign up today! Visit our website for more details
or email <inaugural_conference@bgst.edu.sg>

31 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088454.
Tel: 62276815 Fax: 62276816  Email :
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