Issue No. 37 12 - 18 Sep 2011
On the Cross and God's Attributes

You may perhaps be familiar with the story often told from pulpits of an engineer who operated a drawbridge carrying a railway across a great river. One day, he thought it was a good idea to bring his son along to work, particularly as his son had insisted on spending the day with daddy. Sometime after arriving at his office, the engineer was informed of an oncoming train. Just as he was about to lower the drawbridge, he became aware of his son’s absence from his office. Rushing outside he noticed that his son had climbed onto the teeth of the gears. There and then he was caught in a horrible dilemma. Not lowering the bridge would give him ample time to rescue his son but would mean the sacrifice of a trainload of innocent passengers. Lowering the bridge would save hundreds of lives but his son would be crushed to death. The engineer knew what he had to do. He reached for the lever, turned away from the window, and wept.

This is a popular story that is often used in sermons to illustrate God’s love for sinful humanity as displayed in the sacrifice of Jesus his Son. It is undoubtedly a moving story. However, there is a huge theological problem with it. The story portrays the love of God as an attribute that is uncoordinated with divine purpose and foreknowledge. The tragic situation was entirely unplanned for in the case of the engineer; in the case of Jesus, it is “by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23) that he was put to death.

Students of BGST who have taken Theological Foundations One will recall that I insisted on the need to be careful in the way we think about and teach the divine attributes. We cannot assume that the statement “God is love” overlaps exactly in meaning with love as it is understood within the matrix of human relations. Since God is transcendent and immanent, creaturely language about God’s love necessarily entails similarities and dissimilarities with divine love as it is in the life of God. In technical terms, our language about God is analogical.

This holds true for the notion of God’s wrath. The common perception of God’s anger derives from religious practices that understand the anger of the gods as an emotion that is contingent upon human actions. It follows that appeasement of the gods depends upon the sacrifices prepared and offered by the human devotee.

Contrary to this popular view, the anger of God in the Bible is not a capricious emotion. Rather, it is a consistent, settled response to sin that derives from God’s holiness. Consequently, the propitiation (i.e. appeasement or removal) of God’s wrath is achieved differently. Unlike the popular conception of propitiation, the sacrifice for sin in Biblical teaching is not supplied by the human offender but by God himself: “God presented him (Christ Jesus) as a propitiatory sacrifice…” (Rom 3:25). Furthermore, sin’s sacrifice is not a third party that comes in between the human offender and God (e.g. animals, fruits, etc.) as is the case in popular religious practices. Rather, God himself is the sacrifice for sin. Thus, Paul exhorts the Ephesian elders to care for the church “which he (God) obtains with his own blood” (Acts 20.28).

My purpose in highlighting the above issues is to demonstrate the need for Christians to think through the gospel and its presentation carefully. The cross is central to the gospel, and that is why we have taken ‘The Message of the Cross Today’ as the theme of our 3rd Annual Conference (23rd-24th September). In a society more accustomed to sound bites than sustained thinking, it is my hope that this Conference will buck the trend, by providing an opportunity for all who attend to reflect seriously on the implications of the cross of the Son of God, not least for the way in which the gospel is to be presented in our day.

Dr Edwin Tay

Coming Event
3rd annual conference
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Chapel Message  

In our chapel service on Sep 7, Rev. Lim Kheng Hai from Mount Carmel Bible-Presbyterian Church shared about his experience as a Doctor of Ministry candidate at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto. In particular he shared about his DMin project which involves the development of a training manual for care group leaders of his church. The training will focus on the leader as a person. His intention is to develop 3 modules based on the 3-fold office of Jesus Christ namely: Prophet, Priest and King. These 3 offices can be translated into "teaching the Word, caring for the souls and leading the flock". These are the basic responsibilities of a care group leader.

Pastor Kheng Hai just completed his first cycle of testing the materials. The testing involved conducting training sessions for 2 cohorts of participants over a period of 3 months. He is now working on refining the materials based on feedback received. When this is completed he will do another cycle of testing.

The materials covered in the 3 modules are: Module 1 (Prophet) - An overview of the Bible, an overview of the Christian doctrines, how to interpret the Bible and use of Internet tools for Bible-study. Module 2 (Priest) - Personality traits, shepherding role, prayer and spiritual reading, soul care, evangelism and counselling. Module 3 (King) - Spiritual leadership, vision and missions, leadership methods, group dynamics, and leading change.

It was a enlightening session from Pastor Kheng Hai; and especially heartwarming for us to see how theological knowledge is put to good use in the nurturing of the individual and corporate life of the church. We wish Pastor Kheng Hai God's blessings in his project and every success in his D.Min programme.

Chapel News
Ms Lisa Theng (PSPC) will be our guest at chapel on 21 September 2011. She is a practising lawyer, and will take part in an interview in which she will describe how her Christian faith relates to her profession. Chapel begins at 12 pm. You are welcome to join us.
Faculty News
Dr Philip Satterthwaite will be preaching at the 11.30am service of Grace (SCC) Church on Sunday Sep 18. The topic “Proverbs: Wisdom for life (Prov. 1:1-7)”.

Mr Quek Tze-Ming will be preaching at the 10.45 am service of Faith BP Church on Sunday Sep 18 (Mandarin, with interpreter). The topic is "The Life that Pleases God (2 Cor 6.3-10)".

BGST Office and Library will be closed on Friday, 23 September 2011 from 5.00pm; and on Saturday, 24 September 2011 (whole day) for the BGST 3rd Annual Conference.
Courses Commencing in Term 2, 2011-2012

Christian Biography (AT151, 1.5cr);
Dates & Time: Oct 7, 14, 21, 28, Nov 4; 7.15-10.15pm
Venue: Clarus Centre / Lecturer: Dr David Wong

Marketplace Theology (MM255, 1.5cr);
The course is cancelled due to Mr Ben Pwee's busy schedule.

*Scripture Recitation & Story Telling (ECF514, 1.5cr);
Dates & Time: Oct 7, 14, 21, 28, Nov 4; 7.15-10.15pm
Venue: Clarus Centre / Lecturer: Rev Ng Seng Chuan

Spiritual Retreat Experience: Nature, Purpose, Dynamics (ECF504, 3cr);
Dates & Time: Oct 18, 25, Nov 1, 8, 15, 7.15-9.45pm;
Venue: Telok Ayer CMC
Lecturer: Mr John Chong Ser Choon;
Residential Retreat Nov 17-20 (Additional Cost)

* Courses marked with an asterisk are not offered on audit basis.

The course schedule for Semester 2, year 2011-2012 is now available. For more information, please visit our website: http://bgst.edu.sg/courses-and-events

TENT 2011 Modules
Tentmakers Equipping 'N' Training

Tentmakers & Ethical Issues
Sat. Oct 8 & 15; 2011 (9.30-11.30am; 12.00-2.00pm)
Facilitator: A Former Singaporean Tentmaker

Coping with Stress
Tues. Oct 11, 18 & 25; 2011 (7.20-10.00pm)
Facilitator: Mr Yam Keng Mun

All TENT courses will be held at
37 Jalan Pemimpin, #06-05 Blk B Clarus Centre
(former Union Industrial Building)

For more information on TENT courses,
please visit our website:

37 Jalan Pemimpin, #06-05 Block B, Clarus Centre, S(577177).
Tel: 6227-6815 Fax: 6255-3686 Email: bgst@pacific.net.sg
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