Issue No. 14  August 2013
Musings Over A Recent Debate

Washed and WaitingRecently, I have been surveying literature on homosexuality as part of my preparation for a Christian Ethics (TS252) lecture on the subject. As most of us know, much ink has been spilled over this thorny topic. Indeed, the last 4-5 years have seen debates raging across the Christian world, particularly in the West, and threatening to tear asunder numerous churches. On the popular front, that is, what is often covered in the news, Christians are often portrayed as homophobic and eager to judge homosexual behaviour as wrong, while advocacy groups and countries that defended the legitimacy of homosexuality and same sex marriages are usually presented as supporters of humanity’s right to living freely and authentically. The net result is an unfortunate polarisation in this debate, where one is forced to choose between the two positions. For the Christian who chooses not to affirm such behaviour, he unfortunately also reaps for himself the ‘accolades’ of being homophobic and judgmental.

But surely, Christians are also lovers of humanity and supporters of human freedom and authenticity? If this is the case, how did we end up on the ‘wrong side’ of the popular opinion? There is yet a more important question. Namely, can this contentious debate also provide for the Church an opportunity to reflect more deeply on nature of homosexuality and its theological implications for the Church?

As it turns out, there is already much theological work done in this less observable area. One of which is Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting (Zondervan, 2010). (Hill was one of my classmates from Durham University.) In his book, Hills begins by stating upfront that (1) he is a homosexual, and has had homoerotic feelings ever since puberty; (2) He stands by the Church’s teachings on the prohibition of the practice and has chosen for himself a life of celibacy. Washed and Waiting is then a concurrent sharing of his daily struggles with his homoerotic tendency and his theological reflections on the Church’s response to homosexuals in their midst.

Being largely ignorant of the issues involved in both, Hill’s reflections have been highly illuminating for me. To begin, try as he may, Hill was never able to trace his tendency to any troubled childhood or family trauma. On the contrary, Hill has a great relationship with his parents and siblings – so out goes the negative upbringing theory. Like many homosexual Christians who sought to be faithful to Scriptures, he has also sought to ‘cure’ himself by engaging in heterosexual dating. That didn’t work either (it did for some though). What he was left with is the celibate life, where he must struggle against his homoerotic desires daily. It is in this context then that he reflects on the nature of the human being and the Church’s role in fostering genuine humanity. For Hill, his homoerotic tendencies are but one of the many facets of the fallen, broken world, yet to be fully restored by God. While it has its unique difficulties (it is quite a different thing for a man to struggle against a desire for another man, than against a desire for yet another woman!), we should neither exaggerate homosexuality as a new expression of human authenticity nor regard it as a sin worse than others, such as greed, lust or pride (after all it is pride, not homosexuality, that led to the Fall!)

As one caught in a situation where he desires to be loved, and yet never able to fulfil his desires through a heterosexual marriage, Hill is sensitised all the more to the fact that to be human is always to be in need of love, desire and acceptance (it takes a thirsty man to appreciate the value of water!). For heterosexuals, this desire is satisfied to some extent through the marriage life. This being said, Hill concludes, being unmarried (because of one’s homosexual tendencies) does not make one less human. If this is the case, would it not call into question the spiritual state of the many singles in our churches, or indeed, our Lord Jesus? In fact, if the celibate Jesus was the one true perfect human being, then it must be the case that marriage is only one of the ways by which God satisfies our human desires, and a precursor to that which will truly satisfy ultimately: our apocalyptic union with God. Understood biblically then, how should a Christian find satisfaction for his human desire for intimacy, Hill asks? Answer: the Church. For it is in the Church where we find brothers and sisters, empowered by the Spirit, living out their lives in the imitation of Christ, so that in one way or the other, they may reveal the glory and love of Christ to one another!

This then is the theological significance of homosexuality: it draws attention to our human desire for intimacy, leads us to re-appreciate marriage as an instrumental good (and not the telos of our faith) and to discover that important call for the Church: that every Christian is to be Christ’s hands, legs, body to one another, so that in each other, we find satisfaction in Christ.

Thus ends my short reflection on homosexuality. I hope to discover more as I prepare for the lecture yet to come. For those interested, why not sign up for TS252 (Christian Ethics) to discuss this topic and others (other topics we will cover include filial piety and the ethics of technology)? Or simply drop by at BGST for the lecture on Nov 30, 0930 hrs.

Dr Lai Pak Wah

Image courtesy of Zondervan.com

Closure of BGST Office, Library and Book Corner - 13 September 2013

The school will be closed at 5 pm on Friday, 13 September 2013 as all staff will be supporting the BGST Public Lecture "How Should We Treat The Bible?" held at Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church that evening.

We apologize for the inconvenience caused and seek your kind understanding.

Staff Devotion Time

BGST Staff Devotion time is scheduled on Wednesday 28 August & 4 September at 12 noon.

Friends & visitors are welcome to join us for fellowship and devotion. centre.

Course Schedule

For Semester 1 of Academic Year 2013-2014, please visit our webpage at http://bgst.edu.sg/media/files/courses/2013-2014-sem1.pdf.

For course inquiries, please email us at inquiry@bgst.edu.sg.

Upcoming Public Lecture - 13 September 2013

September Public Lecture

Intensive Courses - September

Professor Alan MillardProfessor Alan Millard is Emeritus Rankin Professor and Honorary Senior Fellow of Hebrew and Ancient Semitic Languages.

His area of expertise lies in the Semitic languages, history and culture of the ancient Near East. He is involved in the publication of Assyrian and Babylonian cuneiform texts and of documents in Old Aramaic. The uses of writing in the area and in relation to the Bible, together with the ancient context of the Hebrew Bible, are topics of his continuing research. He has written numerous papers and several books on these subjects, including studies of Babylonian flood narratives, Assyrian statuary and bilingual inscriptions, and eponyms of the Assyrian empire. His recent work on Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus investigates the role of the written word in creating and perpetuating stories about Jesus.

Prof Alan Millard will be offering 2 courses at BGST:

1. The Bible and Archaeology: Friends or Foes? Fancy, Facts and Faith (OT/NT194, 3 credits)

  • Define what is the Bible & Archaeology
  • Explain how materials of human activities remain related to the Bible
  • Examine various accounts and Gospels in the Bible
  • Determine the signs of the First Christians

Course Dates:
Weekday: Sep 16,17,19,23,24,26 (7:15pm - 10:15 pm)
Saturday: Sep 21, 28 (9:30am - 4:30 pm)

To view course description, visit webpage: http://bgst.edu.sg/media/files/courses/OT-NT194-13-14.pdf, to register visit webpage: : http://bgst.edu.sg/courses-and-events/registration-forms.

2. The Bible and Other Ancient Books: Reality, Recording and Writing (OT/NT252, 1.5 credits)

  • Examine the early writing systems in the biblical world
  • Discuss the problems of Archaeology in relation with biblical text
  • Examine the historical writings and their accuracy
  • Discuss reading and writing of Christian documents in the time of Jesus

Course Dates:
Weekday: Sep 30, Oct 1, 3 (7:15pm - 10:15 pm)
Saturday: Oct 5 (9:30am - 4:30 pm)

To view course description, visit webpage: http://bgst.edu.sg/media/files/courses/OT-NT252-13-14.pdf, to register visit webpage: : http://bgst.edu.sg/courses-and-events/registration-forms.

Course Fees for Credit : S$360 for 3 credits course; S$180 for 1.5 credits course
Course Fees for Audit: S$252 for 3 credits course; S$126 for 1.5 credits course

Highlights Of Upcoming Courses

Rev Daniel ChuaPreaching Isaiah
OT368 (3 credits)
Lecturer: Rev Dr Daniel Chua
Venue: Mt Carmel BP CHurch
Dates: Mondays, Sep 9,16, 23, 30, Oct 7,14, 21, 28, Nov 11,18, 25
Time: 7.15 pm - 10.15 pm

This course aims to provide an overview of the Book of Isaiah with the aim of seeing it eventually taught or preached at the local church. We want to bridge the gap from understanding the biblical text to actually teaching and preaching it. We want students to 'learn-and-transfer' by linking two connecting dots. First, we want to help students grasp the major themes/ underlying message of Isaiah so that they can be confident to go back to teach/preach through the book. Second, we want to give students a head-start and launch them into the process of working on selected chapters - to understand the flow of thought; develop and refine their own teaching/ preaching outlines; and learn how to manuscript complete teaching lessons/ sermons based on a text they have chosen.

To view the course description, click here. To register, click here.

John Wesley and his Legacy in the Life of John Sung
TS/CS242 (3 credits) Blended Learning
Lecturer: Professor Victor Shepherd
Tutor: Mr Tan Kok Choon
Venue: BGST @ 50 Kallang Pudding Road
Dates: Fridays, Sep 27, Oct 11, 25, Nov 8, 22, Dec 6
Time: 7.15 pm - 9.45 pm
Prof Victor Shepherd Mr Tan Kok Choon

This course is devoted to the life and writings of John Wesley (1703-91) and the evangelical traditions he had affected in the person of John Sung. Wesley was believed to have inspired and shaped the early evangelical spirituality In particular, his teaching on the conception of Christian Perfection, was the origin of a Wesleyan and Holiness tradition and his legacy, extending well beyond this, placed him as a key figure in the history of Christianity in general, and the history of Christian spirituality in particular. In a different 2 continent, Sung similarly stood as a "pivotal figure" in Christian history. Often described as "China's John Wesley", Sung's was known to have defined Protestantism in 20th Century China and the spiritual traditions of the Chinese churches.

To view the course description, click here. To register, click here.

Rev Dr Tan Soo InnDiscipleship and Mentoring
CS/ECF505 (1.5 credits)
Lecturer: Rev Dr Tan Soo-Inn
Venue: Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church
Dates: Wednesdays, Oct 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, Nov 6
Time: 7.15 pm - 10.15pm

The greatest need of the hour is not better programmes or more sophisticated technology. The greatest need of the hour is a transformed community, mature followers of Jesus who will bring Godly wisdom and grace into a needy world. But how do we help followers of Jesus grow in Christlike maturity? This is a fundamental question but one that suffers from over familiarity. Most churches and discipleship organizations have their Christian education programmes. Many do good work. Yet the critical nature of this subject demands that we revisit the question often. This course will revisit key questions like: What is a disciple? What does Christlikeness really mean? What resources has God provided to help us grow in Christlikeness?

We will see that making disciples is the primary call of the church and spiritual mentoring is the primary "method" that God has provided to help people grow in Christlikeness. This is the model that Jesus Himself gave us. He developed people through close personal relationships. We will look at the biblical basis for spiritual mentoring and explore ways that discipling/ spiritual mentoring can be done in our churches. We will focus on biblical principles and ways we can actually do discipling in Singapore in the 21st century.

To view the course description, click here. To register, click here.

Mr Chong Ser ChoonSpirituality Retreat Experience: Nature, Purpose and Dynamics
CS504 (3 credits)
Lecturer: Mr Chong Ser Choon
Venue: BGST @ 50  Kallang Pudding Road
Dates: Tuesdays, Oct 22, 29, Nov 5, 12, 19
Time: 7.15 pm - 10.00 pm
Spiritual Retreat is scheduled from Nov 14 - 17 (4D3N) & fees are charged separately

The course will provide a biblical and historical survey of the practice of retreat and how it evolved in the history of the Church. We will also discuss its nature, purpose and dynamics. We will also look at how the discipline of spiritual retreat is related to other spiritual disciplines and its contribution to the Christian's spiritual formation. We will end the teaching segment by discussing the practical and broader issues of how Christians today can practice and discern the Presence of God in the midst of the busy demands of family, work and ministry.

The course will culminate in 4 days 3 nights residential retreat. The teaching segment of the course will serve to prepare participants for the spiritual retreat experience. Through this course, we aim to provide a model to encourage Christians to cultivate and incorporate this spiritual discipline into their Christian life.

To view the course description, click here. To register, click here.

Rev Ng Seng ChuanIntroduction to Early Buddhism
IC203 (1.5 credits)
Lecturer: Rev Ng Seng Chuan
Venue: BGST @ 50 Kallang Pudding Road
Dates: Thursdays, Oct 24, 31, Nov 7, 14, 21, 28
Time: 7.15 pm - 10.00 pm

This course attempts to present the essential features of Buddhist philosophy and history from an objective and sympathetic perspective. The underlying assumption is that, to reach a Buddhist or the Buddhist community, it is necessary to assure them that we have heard and understood what they believe about the Buddha.

It is also assumed that, in a world rife with religious tension, the church needs to prepare a cohort of ambassadors of peace who will facilitate the opening up of channels of communication between practitioners of different religions.

This course, therefore, is offered as a sympathetic appreciation of Buddhist culture and history, and not as an antipathetic critique of a religion alien to the church.

To view the course description, click here. To register, click here.

50 Kallang Pudding Road, #07-01, Golden Wheel Industrial Building, S(349326).
Tel: 6227-6815 Fax: 6743-6847 Email: inquiry@bgst.edu.sg
To access previous issues of BTW click here | To access BGST website click here.
To subscribe click here | To unsubscribe click here.
Bookmark and Share