Thursday, July 29, 2010

What's up with 'What's up'?

Attending Andrew Peh's course on doing mission in a globalized world has led me to start a column title 'What's up?' on this blog to highlight events that I deem theologically and missionally relevant.

I know the title 'What's up?' is too casual. Yet that's what I can do: to give casual insight and reflection over issues. I am not a brilliant political scientist or sociologist or economist. I'm just a student who are keen to engage and reflect over what is happening around us.

'What's up?' might be palatable and not to you. Whichever the case, my hope is that people who read them are invited to think and live for themselves to the fullness :-)

Here is the first entry: What's up with India, Myanmar, MM Lee, and Vatican City?

What's up with India, Myanmar, MM Lee, and Vatican City?

India became friendly with Myanmar despite its earlier disagreement over undemocratic management of the Burmese nation in the 1990s. The Indian state promises to provide altogether $194 million to Myanmar.

Why such sudden friendliness? Here's what Newsweek thinks, "India needs energy to maintain its economic growth, and Burma has massive natural-gas reserves. New Delhi is scrambling for its share before China snaps up everything."

Besides, one has to ask whether do these funds really benefit the Myanmar people and not end up lining up the junta's pocket, which is usually the case, given the serious lack of transparency in the governance?

What was India thinking? Betraying its own conscience, which is evident in its earlier disapproval against the Myanmar government, in order to get a share of Myanmar's energy before taken all by China?

And all these are happening while Aung San Suu Kyi & Myanmar people are suffering. All concerned people, especially politicians and economists, should continuously press on together with Singapore Foreign Minister's call, "We suggested quite strongly to our Myanmar colleagues that they consider having Asean observers at elections, bringing in members of the family into what is really their own domestic affair."

Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew recently commented on the valuation of the workforce, "That's life! You know American Generals - they don't do well, they get fired and they give them a medal, they send a new general! I think we have to develop that approach to life. (When) you have reached the maximum you can do at your age in that position, you move sideways and you take less pay and you move gradually, (getting) less and less pay because you are moving slower and slower, especially when you're doing physical work."

This is intriguing. The proposed approach to valuation of the workforce on such an extreme level of meritocracy that values only the presence or the 'now' has social implication.

Respect and acknowledgment of the contribution of the elderly to the building of the nation cannot be simply overlooked when they can't contribute as much as earlier. To insist on taking this extreme meritocratic approach cultivates the later generation of locals who wouldn't know how to value their predecessors. Appreciation of individuals is reduced only to what we can give now regardless of what we have given in the past.

It would not take long for individuals who grow up under such social-economic sentiment to adopt this extreme meritocracy into their family life and start asking, "Should I care less for my parents and grandparents because they have less to contribute to my well-being NOW?"

Singapore is threading on the fine line between price and value in her society.

The Vatican City is now policing against men's shorts and women's sleeveless top and short skirt. This latest feat resembles in lesser degree the infamous moral policing in Malaysia. As one woman asked, "Given all the scandals the Church has been involved in, what possible right can it have to be preaching about the morality of sleeveless dresses?"

The Vatican reserves her rights to do whatever she wants regardless of others' thoughts. What I am more interested is Vatican's approach to the entire issue on the relationship between morality and the legislation of morality. I believes the Vatican takes the natural law as sufficient to point out what is moral and what is not. Yet it is still to be seen how does shorts and sleeveless top and skirt can be demonstrated by natural law alone that they are inappropriate attire.

This is especially necessary when "The tough dress code also applied to Romans using the Vatican's pharmacy, supermarket and post office."

Personally I don't have problem with people wearing scanty clubbing outfits even to church services. If I get distracted, then that is my fault and not theirs. They have every rights to wear whatever they are comfortable with.

May be some might protest by saying that individuals have the responsibility not to stumble others with their dressing. However, what rights do I have to dictate what others can or cannot wear when I can't even discipline myself not to be distracted?

Those who are easily stumbled are the ones that have to deal with their own issue. Think about it: If you feel stumbled while watching Baywatch, do you switch off the TV or do you write to the producers about the modesty of their actress? Your own pick.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Miroslav Volf on theology

Theology is about a way of life and how that life can be lived today. You can memorize Scripture but it may not change you. Theology asks how I should live; it’s a way of life before God.

Theology helps us live an examined life, a life that is self-aware. It’s the intellectual side of Christian living.
(Yale professor speaks on importance of theology at Eerdmans bookstore)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A theology on physical death in relation to the problem of evil

This is an extract from my essay that examines the relationship between creation and eschatology. I really like the concluding phrase: "...physical death is good only as far as the resurrected life allows it to be":
The fundamental theological conundrum of physical death is of theodicy. And theodicy is essentially the justification of the Creator’s justice and love vis-à-vis the creature’s liberty and emancipation. A robust theodicy does not prioritise one at the cost of the other, and so jeopardize the tension between the two. However, to understand death through the Creator-creature tension poses a problem to our understanding of the creation and the eschaton. Is creation merely mechanical, like the 18th century deists’ analogy of the universe as a gigantic clock and hyper-Calvinism’s notion of double predestination, where everything—including creature’s liberty—is divinely dictated? If not, will the eschaton mark the end of liberty when all creatures cannot but to respond to God against their will?

My suggestion to deal with this problem is by understanding the issue through the three-phases eschatological hermeneutic. If death is located within the narrative that God is actively participating throughout the process of structuring history to its finality from within history, then death has a significant function.

Physical death, as we know from Gen. 3 and 1 Cor. 15.21-26, is not the natural product of the act of creation. The first humans were created with “contingent immortality.” As Erickson explains, “They could have lived forever, but it was not certain that they would. Upon sinning they lost that status.”[1] Then came the divine ordinance of physical death (Gen. 3.19).[2] However, the in-breaking of the eschatological future into history reveals that death’s ordinance is not only a punishment but also a part of the process of structuring the creation into the eschaton. This can only be so through the perichoretic relationship among the three-phases in eschatology. Physical death is an act of eschatological creation. It is ordained to punish as well as to reconcile. At the eschaton, through death and resurrection, the creation’s properties such as its liberty and emancipation are preserved. Simply said, death is evil, and yet it is necessary. Further explication follows.

There is no doubt that God, in his sovereign freedom, able to bring a mechanistic creation into being if he chose to. However, God has chosen a greater good: he structured the element of liberty, his own divine attribute, into the creation. And with liberty, came the risk of the Fall. And when the Fall took place, instead of wiping out the creation out of divine justice, physical death was instituted. Through this necessary evil, the creation was structured to its next phase of eschatological creation, one step nearer to its eschatological order. God’s justice and love necessitate the physical death of humanity so that through it the creation is liberated to its eschatological future in its post-Fall state.

In this way, the Fall of the creation is necessary for the eschaton. For without the Fall, there is no physical death. Without physical death, the Creator’s justice and love, and the creature’s liberty and emancipation remain irreconcilable.

However, if God instituted only physical death without also instituting physical resurrection, the former will be final and so defeats death’s own institution as a necessity for the greater good. While death justifies both the Creator’s justice and love, and the creature’s liberty and emancipation, the resurrection justifies death. Ludwig Feuerbach sees life after death as the expression of the individual’s ego.[3] In other words, death is, to him, the final determinant of life; immortality thus became a wishful slave, while death became the master. The creation-eschaton narrative says otherwise; death does not deserve such a pristine pedestal.

There is simply no other way to structure the primordial chaos into the eschatological orderly future (that consists of both the justifications of the Creator’s and creatures’ properties) than through the necessity of the Fall, physical death and physical resurrection. Therefore death and resurrection are non-negligible. They are experiences that are intrinsic in the orchestrating of the creation from chaos into the orderly eschaton.

Going against Feuerbach, the inevitability of death must be acknowledged in the face of everlasting life. Physical death and eternal life are reconciled through eschatology. It is said that death distinguishes us from gods.[4] Yet it is also death that liberates us to be translated into God through resurrection. “We believe in God the Eschatos, but of the Eschaton only that it is creation’s translation into him.”[5] Death is necessary for life, and yet it is life that legitimates death’s necessity. Death when seen through the relationship between creation and eschatology illuminates well Paul’s sentiment, “to die is gain.”[6] (This proposal contrasts Louis Berkhof’s notion that death is the “culmination of the chastisements God uses to sanctify his people.”[7] (The exceptional assumption of Enoch and Elijah remained unexplainable. Yet their experiences do not serve as the overarching pattern for humanity and so do not disrupt the general pattern of God’s activity in the creation and the eschaton. In the same way, the longevity of the ancient patriarchs does not have any bearing on much shorter lifespan experienced by humanity at current times.) Hence, physical death is good only as far as the resurrected life allows it to be.

[1] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (USA: Baker, 1998), p.1177.
[2] Roland Chia, Theology II: Eschatology lecture note 2, p.6-7.
[3] Van A. Harvey, Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach,, paragraph 6 (accessed 20 May 2010).
[4] Roland Chia, Theology II: Eschatology lecture note 2, p.2-3..
[5] Robert Jenson, Systematic Theology, vol. 2 (UK: Oxford University Press, 1999), p.167.
[6] Philippians 1.21.
[7] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (USA: Baker, 1998), p.1179.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Check out upcoming lectures

Please check out the upcoming events at the right column of this blog 'Upcoming Theological Events'. There are a few different lectures coming up in these two months.

I wanted to attend one this evening organized by Free Community Church at Geylang, but since I have started working part time, I couldn't stretch my time further. It's a healthy tension as the exercise of time managing helps me to prioritize my interest, learning more about myself in this current situatedness.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Spiritual Discipline includes eisegesis?

"Lectio Divina" is an ancient art of spiritual reading of the scripture at a deeper level. The formalization of the art is dated to about 1600 years ago. About 5 years ago, Pope Benedict XVI personally recommended this art to participants at the international congress, believing that this practice will bring about "a new spiritual springtime" if effectively promoted. You can read the entire papal address here.

This art was introduced to us this morning. We were led to practice the Lectio Divina as part of our learning process on the topic spiritual discipline.

This method of reading scripture was once perceived by Protestants as a risk for uncontrolled and heterodoxal mystical experience. Martin Luther was given as an example of someone who did not explicitly endorse this practice. Then we were told that though Luther was not explicit about it, his past as an Augustinian monk would have probably exposed him to this ancient art. Hence we do detect the pattern of Lectio Divina in his writings. This art is not that alien to Protestants. That's what we were told.

Anyway, there are preparations needed prior to our practicing of the art. For instance, we are told to regulate our breathing, make sure we take constant, slow, and deep breath. We were suggested to pay attention to our own breath.

The first stage was Lectio. A passage from the scripture was read by a volunteer while the rest of us had our eyes closed. We were instructed to listen attentively to discern between the voice of the world, of our selves, and that of God.

Then the second stage is known as the Meditatio. The same scriptural passage was read. This round by a different volunteer. We were asked to listened with diligence to capture a phrase that resonates with our present state of meditation.

The same passage was read by another volunteer for the third time. This marks the third stage known as Oratio. Here, we are told not to use our analytical or logical skills to understand the scriptural passage. Instead, we are directed to meditate further over the catch phrase, try to connect the phrase with our life experience.

Then came the fourth and final stage, Contemplatio. At this stage, all of us were instructed to simply rest in the presence of God. After that, we were asked to share our own catch phrase and the experiment within our group. No one should respond either positively or negatively to individual's sharing as there is no right or wrong in one's personal connection with the scriptural passage.

Each one of us came up with an understanding of the passage without reference to the context of the text. When my turn came, I passed on as I didn't have anything to share. This entire experiment is an example of a type of spiritual discipline. (Or is it?)

For more information of this ancient art, go here.

Then it occurred to me that this practice overturns all that we have learned from our other classes that emphasize heavily on exegesis. Classes on Old Testament, New Testament, Biblical Interpretation, Theology, and even Mission & Evangelism stress on the right understanding of the scripture. And a right understanding can never be detached from the text's context.

We learned that the sort of hermeneutic underlying Lectio Divina is known as 'reader-response criticism'. This method emphasizes the reader's personal experience with the text regardless of what the text really says.

If Christian spirituality cannot be detached from Christian theology, which I think it is so, and if theology cannot be separated from exegesis on the scripture, which every Christian should think so, then all Christian spirituality should involve proper exegesis on the scripture.

Anyway, this is just my thought. I can be wrong. Yet I cannot help but to wonder what does this mean after this morning's experiment with Lectio Divina?

Does it mean that we have to do eisegesis in our cultivation of spirituality? If yes, then what's the point of reading commentaries on the scripture, writing exegetical papers on scriptural passages, reading theological treatises over matters pertaining to our faith? What's the point of getting degrees on theology and biblical studies?

Anyone can simply establish any meaning on a particular scriptural passage in the name of Lectio Divina. And claim spiritual growth for that. Having a degree or not is not in anyway relevant to the proper handling of scripture.

If not, then why are we practicing this ancient art which contradicts all that we have learned? Does spirituality has to be dichotomized from exegesis? Does spiritual discipline, like Lectio Divina, necessarily irreconcilable with intellectual discipline, like proper hermeneutic? Can Christian spirituality be understood as a progress that includes proper exegesis?

I think we can. We should. How about you?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why keep blogging

"How do you keep yourself blogging and reflecting?" a collegemate asked during lunch. He continued, "It is not easy to just reflect and write about it on a public space. I'm sure you spent a lot of time doing it. So how do you do it?"

While spooning myself, I looked up and start thinking. I remembered that I have thought about this before. So what I needed to do was to retrieve the thoughts that have went by.

It took my mind a while to locate that memory. "Yes, I spent a lot of time reflecting and blogging. The recent one is a post on a local church which took me two days to write. There are other posts which took more. Anyway, back to your question, how do I do it? Here's how: I see maintaining a blog as a calling and a ministry."

The answer to the 'how' question is the answer of the 'why' question. It is defeating to want to maintain a blog without having the reason why will one want to do it.

Besides for interacting with others and getting to know new friends, a blog is the space where thoughts are forged and imaginations are fired.

Usually, I think while blogging. That means most of the posts here are thoughts which are generated when my eyes are staring into the computer screen, with my fingers tapping on the keyboard. And that's exactly what is happening now as I'm typing this post.

Our mind wanders most of the time when we are conscious. A lot of times, great ideas or deep insights passed by our mind without us taking note. And taking note is not taking notice. We usually noticed during eureka moment, but how often do we set it down on writing for further exploration and development?

Blogging is the best activity facilitating such meditative reflection. Blogging is not only for archiving but also is part of the process of formulating thoughts. One can well be theologizing through blogging.

Some think well through a cup of coffee. Some through vajra posture. Some, like me, through blogging.

Haldane recently posted some thoughts on Blogging as theological discourse which I find suggestive given my previous interaction with friends over this blogosphere's theology. James Smith has also blogged on his take on this phenomenon.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

An understanding of Christian spirituality

I don't find attending church services necessarily draw me nearer to God. Not that I don't attend church. To be sure, I have been a weekly pew warmer. Go to the church to warm the pew for about one and a half hour.

A Christian spirituality has, first and foremost, to do with the Christian's theology of God. The Trinity that we know is one that is ever presently engaging in the creation, behind the creation and from beyond the creation. Therefore Christian's theism is not pantheism or deism. The Trinity transcends then and there, and here and now.

Our spirituality is best understood through this notion of God. Hence a Christian spirituality is not pantheistic in the sense that God is merely in all of our experiences. There are some experiences that we know that God is involved, there are some which we know that God is not involved, and there are much that we simply don't know whether is God involve or not.

It is likely the latter is the commonest experience. And it is in our uncertainty that we often attribute God's involvement by faith. Many times, we implicate God into situations where he is not involved. And when the situations turn bad, we doubt God. Or worse, we blame God for that.

Neither is Christian spirituality deistic. We don't relate to a once-present and once-active God. It is the ever-present and ever-active God who relates with us. The nature of the Trinity defies the idea that what we do now or what is happening in our current world is divorced entirely from the divine reality.
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5.8)

"For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him... For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1.16-20)
Between these two poles of non-pantheistic and non-deistic spiritualities, lies the situatedness of our lives, hence our spirituality, in the economy of the Trinity. It is therefore the primary cultivation of a Christian spirituality is in the livingness of this reality; being encountered by the Trinity at every corner we turn.

Cultivating a livingness is nothing short of a conscious attachment to a life being lived. There is no single activity or a spectrum of activities that can define livingness. Being alive is simply being alive. And no amount of activity can make it more so.

Being alive in the economy of the Trinity is a spirituality. The proper response is not thence passive defeatism, doing nothing but to wait for epiphany all the time. To affirm this is denying the current eschatological reality, the 'already but not yet', and so negating the economy of the Trinity of which our lives are situated.

If the state of our spirituality is situated within the economy of the Trinity, which I think it is, then our spirituality involves, and not confined, by constant discernment of the economic activity of the Trinity without denying the reality of our current 'already but not yet' time.

Our extension within this current time ranges from the act of praying, warming the pew, participating the Holy Communion, baptism, fellowshipping with other Christians, doing dishes, commenting on a nation's political issues, painting a picture, feeding the poor, marveling at the awesomeness of the human anatomy, doing time in the prison, dialogging with a Buddhist, and various other activities under the sun.

These activities which are discerned with the consciousness of the economy of the Trinity. Yet this does not mean that a person who does all these is necessarily cultivating spirituality. One may do all these without any consciousness of one's situatedness within the Trinitarian economy. Therefore to accord spirituality even to these explicit activities does not reflect the reality of the state of being spiritually alive.

Since spirituality is not reflected through activities but through constant divine encounter, we cannot deny the spirituality of those who are cognitively disabled. The spirituality of those with down syndrome and Alzheimer's disease are not affected by their inability. They are no less in a constant encounter by the Trinity than anyone of us. The difference is perhaps simply their lack of the consciousness of their situatedness.

The question 'Which activities better help us to grow spiritually?' applies only to those who think that spirituality is defined by activity. To adopt such definition of spirituality is to think that a person is not alive unless he/she is doing something. But as we know, being alive is just being alive. The state of our spirituality is not defined by what we do but by the situatedness of our lives, or simply, the meaning of the air that drives us to wake up every morning.

In sum, for a Christian to be spiritual is simply for him or her to live a life within the economy of the Trinity. Such livingness enables and obliges one to constantly discern one's state of livingness. To peg spirituality with an activity is defining the former in a wrong way. To be conscious of our situatedness is an spiritual act. To be driven by this consciousness is to be spiritually growing.

As Alister McGrath summarizes:
"Christian spirituality concerns the quest for a fulfilled and authentic Christian existence, involving the bringing together of the fundamental ideas of Christianity and the whole experience of living on the basis of and within the scope of the Christian faith."
(Alister McGrath, Christian Spirituality: An Introduction (UK: Blackwell, 1999), p.2. Emphasis added)
Warming pew every Sunday is as spiritual as reading a news portal on the internet as long as the divine encounter is there.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How's it like after one year in a theological college?

"So, how was your first year in a theological college?" asked a friend last month. I was as quiet as 2 a.m. can be. I didn't know what to say or where should I start.

As everyone who know me know that I am better at writing than talking. Since I was asked, so I venture to articulate.

A year of living and learning in a theological college definitely has molded me into a different person. The problem is I don't know what is the difference besides the stuffs that I have learned and read about.

Certainly there are many thoughts have been shaped and sharpened. One can hardly be unaffected by the required reading of certain amount of books and articles coupled with a few research essays.

To be sure, I have a better understanding over the personhood of the Holy Spirit, the relationship between creation and eschatology, the founding history of Trinity Theological College and Singapore Bible College, the theological scene in Singapore in the first half of the twentieth century, and some themes in the New Testament and the Old Testament.

Looking back to previous two semesters, I really appreciate the faculty members, be it resident or guest, in TTC. I had the opportunity to learn from Tony Siew, Roland Chia, Andrew Peh, Maggie Low, Swee Hong, Lucilla, Telford Work, and Simon Chan.

All of them were strict in their requirement and demands. We all understand that they were so in order to bring the best out of the students. And none of them hesitate to help us when we faced with difficulties in our study.

After one year, I also came to see the limitation of a theological college as a place for the cultivation of spiritual formation. For example, there are theological students who are pseudo-humble, with Messiah-complex, plagiarize, commit adultery, exercise misjudgment, etc etc. Similarly, Singapore Bible College has its own story too.

A theological college, monastery, or seminary can fill up its daily schedule with religious activities like morning chapel service, evening vesper, hostel vesper, prayer meetings, Day of Prayer, lunch fellowship, family group, etc. Yet sin will somehow find its way through somewhere into the holy ground.

Not that this is something new. But to experience this scenario in close proximity reaffirms the perception that I already have over all institutions, be it religious or not. As human history has shown, there are anomalies everywhere under the sun. So this is not only an issue with Christian theological institutions but, to reiterate, everywhere under the sun. Remember the days when Enron was still a model company and when Bill Clinton was still the President of U.S.A?

For one thing, I am for spiritual formation but I just don't think I can adapt to the college's schedule. I have not attended a single evening vesper throughout the entire year. And guess what? Last week I was scheduled to lead yesterday's evening vesper! I didn't have any idea what was an evening vesper until yesterday.

I am not someone who has mushy feelings when I attend a service or a mass. I don't feel nearer to God and his Christ through services. Those days are gone. Now, I just don't.

I don't spend hours to pray. I don't have morning devotion on my own. I just don't.

No, I didn't become like this after my enrollment into TTC. I was already like this before that.

The union nature of this college presupposes the need to affirm differences. True to its nature, some of the lecturers keep reiterate this need in the classes. Yet on the other hand, the spiritual formation activities are formed in such a way that pushes for conformity.

It is like if you want to be in the good book of certain authority in the school, you are encouraged to do this and that, which sometimes the 'this' and the 'that' are just not the things that are necessary. They are more like the 'wants' rather than the 'needs'. So far, I have not hesitate to complete all the 'needs' activities, like carrying out my duty as the chairperson of the hostel. As for the 'wants', I take it easy.

I just got to know that some of the lecturers at TTC know about this blog. And the general perception that they have about what I wrote here is that I often present only one side of the argument and hence my thoughts are immature.

Well, what can I say? Hopefully that does not mean I appear as a very narrow-minded person.

Talking about this blog, five hours ago I met a guy who was wondering about Joseph Prince's teaching. He told me that his Anglican pastor emailed to him my posts on Joseph Prince's teaching for his reference. I didn't know if that is a good thing. I don't mind people recommending my writings here to others if they are good. But I wouldn't want others to read my immature thoughts if they are really so.

Anyway, this is my first week into the third semester and hopefully not the final one as there might be some funding problem that will disable me to continue to the fourth semester. So far, I really enjoy every single class (Eschatology, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, and Mission in a Globalized World) and am looking forward to attend them next week.

Monday, July 12, 2010

John Sung's spiritual encounter in perspective

(Photo taken from

I came to know about John Sung through Steven. And he came to know about him through, if I'm correct, Stephen Tong. When we first learned about him, we held Sung on the pedestal. He exemplifies the apostolic evangelists narrated in the books of Acts. This is also due to Stephen Tong's constant public hailing of Sung in the former's weekly sermon.

I wrote an essay for Church History class in uncovering the history of the theological scene in Singapore in the first half of the twentieth century. I didn't plan to write anything about John Sung.

As I researched more into my topic, I discover that John Sung actually played a vital part in the theological scene in Singapore at that time. Here is an edited portion extracted from my essay which I have recently updated for my own archive

Many have hailed Sung in his missionary work. Many sympathize with Sung's spiritual encounter at the mental hospital in which he was confined. Many see Sung as the epitome of their personal struggle with theology vis-a-vis spirituality. I'm here pointing out an over-looked perspective of Sung's spiritual encounter and let you decide whether should that encounter be an epitome:

Even today, many Chinese Christians, including some very eminent retired Christian leaders, still trace their Christian conversions and/or commitments to Sung’s work in Southeast Asia.

(Irene Tay, Hwa Yung, and The China Group, ‘Sung, John’ in A Dictionary of Asian Chrisitanity, Scott W. Sunquist, ed. (USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001), p.808.)

An Anglican archdeacon remarked, “
The reason why so many Chinese pastors are conservative is that they were revived through Dr. Sung’s Bible-centred preaching. He set the example. He took the Bible seriously and would expound the whole Bible chapter by chapter.[i] The archdeacon’s remark reveals that these Chinese leaders hailed Sungian theology as orthodoxy and hence ‘conservative’. A rather questionable equation, of course. He also reveals that Sung’s theological influence was pervasive and taken deep rooting in the local community.

One of the local prominent Christian leaders, Timothy Tow, who was converted through Sung’s ministry and founded the Far Eastern Bible College in 1962,[ii] testified to this. He considered himself as a “
lover of John Sung.”[iii]

John Sung visited Singapore seven times in the period from June 1935 to December 1939.[iv] The Chin Lien Bible College was established on the fourteenth of May 1937 by his assistant Leona Wu to advance the propagation of the Sungian theology among the locals. The vision of the college was known “
to further train John Sung converts for the Lord's vineyard.[v] The college in its current form is known as Chin Lien Bible Seminary, which is located at 15, Green Lane. As a result, a lot of the Chinese Christians were influenced by his approach to theology. The ones who are most affected by Sung were particularly those who came to the faith through his ministry.

He was a brilliant man who obtained a Ph.D in Chemistry at the Ohio State University, U.S.A, in 1926. Instead of pursuing a career in the science, Sung decided to venture into life-long Christian ministry. Hence he enrolled into the Union Theological Seminary in New York to pursue his theological studies.

In the seminary, he was disturbed and confused by the intellectual engagement required and hence gradually failing to relate to his faith. Although on papers he did well in his first term at Union, with scores above 90 percent in most of his subjects,[vi] Sung was fundamentally unable to engage with the intellectual rigour of the course.

He was not familiar with the western approaches to issues like the relationship between the intellect and faith. Hence he went into severe depression and was contemplating suicide. Sung’s psychosis was noticed by his close friends. As one of them, Rolfin Walker, wrote, “A
t Union, [Sung] studied with feverish intensity, trying to do three men’s work at the same time. In the course of the year he sent me a letter which struck me as incoherent and as the product of an overstrained brain. I enclosed it to Dr. Coffin, suggesting that he needed medical attention.[vii]

In that intense and deranged psychological state, Sung had an unusual encounter on the night of the tenth of February 1927.[viii] He claimed that Jesus Christ appeared and spoke to him. Right after that, with the newfound confidence in his encounter, to pick the least assuming word, “experience” he castigated his lecturer, Harry E. Fosdick of the Union Theological Seminary, “Y
ou are of the devil. You made me lose my faith![ix]

John Sung’s sudden and extreme religiosity is now better understood through a series of experiments conducted by researchers at York University. The researchers studied 600 participants’ tendency towards religiosity when they are stimulated to a state of anxiety. “Researchers found that religious zeal reactions were most pronounced among participants with bold personalities (defined as having high self-esteem and being action-oriented, eager and tenacious), who were already vulnerable to anxiety, and felt most hopeless about their daily goals in life.[x]

As a person, Sung shared significant characteristics with those participants who possess bold personalities. The York University’s research provides us a benchmark to understand Sung’s reaction in relation to the tremendous anxiety that was crippling him during his time at Union Theological Seminary. When Sung was subjected to the overwhelming condition, his religious experience was activated as a natural psychological reaction due to his bold personalities.

Following his derision of his lecturer, Sung was being confined in the Bloomingdale Hospital against his will. To be sure, he did a psychological exam before the detention. It was during this 193 days of confinement that Sung claimed to have read through the Bible forty times and emerged as a different person (got well from his psychosis?).[xi] After his release, Sung travelled back to China and started his missionary work, carrying with him his psychologically traumatized theology to which many parts of South East Asia have uncritically accepted as orthodoxy.

[i] Bobby Sng, In His Good Time (Singapore: Bible Society of Singapore, 1980, 3rd Ed., 2003), p.201-233.

[ii] Far Eastern Bible College, A Short History of Far Eastern Bible College, (accessed on 25 May 2010). See also Bob Phee, ed., Far Eastern Bible College Silver Jubilee Magazine (Singapore: Far Eastern Bible College, 1987), p.23.

[iii] Timothy Tow, John Sung and the Asian Awakening,, the last paragraph (accessed on 24 May 2010).

[iv] Irene Tay, Hwa Yung, and The China Group, ‘Sung, John’ in A Dictionary of Asian Chrisitanity, Scott W. Sunquist, ed. (USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001), p.807-808.

[v] Timothy Tow, John Sung, my Teacher (Singapore: Christian Life Publisher, 1985), chapter 24. The online version can be found here (accessed 25 May 2010).

[vi] Leslie T. Lyall, ‘A Biography of John Sung’ in John Sung (Singapore: Armour Publishing, 2005), p.33.

[vii] Ibid, p.37.

[viii] Levi, compiled, The Journal Once Lost: Extracts from the Diary of John Sung (Singapore: Genesis Books, 2008), p.42.

[ix] Timothy Tow, John Sung and the Asian Awakening, (accessed on 24 May 2010).

[x] York U researchers find anxiety may be at root of religious extremism, (accessed 8 July 2010)

[xi] William E. Schubert, ‘I Remember John Sung’ in John Sung (Singapore: Armour Publishing, 2005), p.256.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Ng Kam Weng's responses to Muslim scholars

The problem over the use of 'Allah' by non-Muslims generated by the UMNO government in Malaysia is still persisting.

There have been a number of Muslim scholars from local Muslim institutions (mostly are funded by the State) who produced resources to support the case to ban non-Muslims from using the word 'Allah'.

Ng Kam Weng has recently wrote three responses to some of these resources. He has previously done so earlier this year. His latest triune responses deal particularly with the arguments tabled by the Muslim scholars.

Kam Weng's first response is directed to Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas and Mohd Sani b. Badron from the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM). The response shows how these two Muslim scholars misuse the great Christian theologian, Thomas Aquinas, in their attempt to deceive the public by stating that Christians should not use 'Allah' because that would go against Aquinas' advise.

After quoting Aquinas's work at length and giving the context of Aquinas' engagement, Kam Weng wrote, "Tawfik and Mohd Sani both read Aquinas carelessly when they rely on partial quotations of Aquinas that violate his precise balance. It is an illegitimate attempt to co-op Aquinas for their argument [...]. Aquinas is talking about maintaining balance between unity and trinity; he is not in anyway disqualifying Christians from referring to the one God."

In Kam Weng's second response, he pointed out the word 'Allah' is not a personal name as some of these Muslim scholars have stated. Some Muslim scholars who acknowledge that the word 'Allah' has been in used before the rise of Islam. Yet they argued that Islam has since 'purified' the word.

On this point, Kam Weng replied, "Such an assertion is intellectually dubious. It is evident that there is no such thing as a pure language which would presuppose a self-contained and self-sufficient linguistic community, hermetically sealed from interaction with neighboring linguistic communities – a historical impossibility by any account," before he went on to further make his case by referring to Andrew Rippin's article 'Foreign Vocabulary' in Brill's Encyclopedia of the Quran.

After that, Kam Weng wrote a point-by-point refutation over the arguments made by Mohd Sani Badron and Khadijah Mohd Hanbali. He built the case that 'Allah' is not a personal name.

Kam Weng cleared the confusion over translation issue that some Muslim scholars have in his third response. After a long technical argument over the issue, Kam Weng concludes with these words,
"The Islamic Department has no ground, whatsoever, to regulate Christians in how they use Bahasa Malaysia. It should concentrate on matters related to the Islamic community and their welfare. It has neither the authority nor competence to interfere with the internal matters of other communities.

Malaysian Christians are not pretending to be another Islamic sect. They have no desire and have no obligation to conform to Islamic teaching. By the same token, there is no justification to demand Christian usage of Malay words conform to Islamic theology. Christians have full rights to profess and practice their faith in accordance to their beliefs. In particular, Christians are merely expressing their religious liberty enshrined in the Federal Constitution when they use Malay words of Arabic origin like Allâh, Wahyu, Injil, Nabi, Iman, Al-kitab etc., words which were used by Christian monotheists centuries before the Malays turned to Islam."
If Muslims demand non-Muslims to respect their theology, then they should not deny others what they demand from them. Muslims have their rights to their own theology in as much as Christians have ours to our theology. What these Muslim scholars, along with the UMNO government, are doing is demanding something which they deny others.

I was hacked as a result of my conversation with a Muslim

Update 9th July 2010: Fauzisg2 emailed me personally to clarify the issue. I owe him an apology if he is not the hacker.

Update 8th July 2010: Strangely the deleted comments re-appear again in the post when I checked it this morning!

I was having a correspondence with a Muslim by the pseudonym 'fauzisg2' on my post on Islamization and Activism in Malaysia.

The correspondence started about 5 days ago. As I was replying fauzisg2 just now, I realized that some of his previous comments have been deleted. While investigating that matter, to my horror, I found out that my comments which respond to fauzisg2's deleted comments are also vanished!

fauzisg2 can delete his own comments, but how does he or anyone delete my comments?

This has never happened before. Could it be that fauzisg2 found that it is not enough to delete his own (assuming it's a 'he'), so he hacked into my blogger account and deleted mine as well?

I suspect that is the case. If it is, then it is an embarrassment for Muslims like fauzisg2 to resort to such uncivilized tactic in a correspondence.

But anyway, I will paste both the deleted comments made my fausizg2 (in green) and my responses (in black) here so that every readers are hold accountable:

fausizg2's first deleted response, wrote on 5th July:
"Hi again Sze Zeng,

I'll try to elaborate about Azlina Jailani's case and I hope you and all the readers here can understand about it.

What is mahkamah Syariah? It is a house of Islamic laws to protect and to bring up justice for Muslim and non-Muslim. For me mahkamah Syariah is like a parent who will protect their children (the followers) and willing to guide them to their own goodness, and will give them advice when needed.

So in the case of Azlina Jailani (Lina Joy), Mahkamah Syariah has right to know (since she was a Muslim) what is the main reason that she want to leave Islam and this question will be asking during the counseling session and if the reason is reasonable she can go ahead (convert out of Islam) but if not, let say she want to leave Islam because she has some misunderstanding about some of the Islamic teachings so the experts in mahkamah Syariah have right to educate and counseling her on that matters and possibly they will have some dialogues with her to clear up the matters.

But unfortunately Azlina Jailani (Lina Joy) never at all try to bring her case to mahkamah Syariah (WHY???) and then, ironically, some of us allegedly say that Islam has prevent her from practicing what she believe, whereas she herself hesitate to do the trial in mahkamah Syariah, this is not fair for Muslim and Islam.

I hope you and all the readers can understand what is happening on Azlina Jailani case.

And I too want to thanks you for let my messages to appear here. TQ!"

fauzisg2's second deleted response, wrote on 5th July:
"Hi everybody..

Reasonable thanks for your comment, in order to reason with you, I need to ask you something and by your answer I will try to explain my point of view regarding the "religious rule". The question is easy, Is Jesus God (in Christianity)?

And to Sze Zeng, since Azlina Jailani has raised up as a Muslim until her matured age and then only after that she want to convert out from Islam, so she was in the house of Islam and in the house of her parent (Islamic Laws - mahkamah Syariah) before, and if she want 'to move' out she has to has a good reason for that. She can move out but first she has to face her parent (mahkamah Syariah)....I think this is so reasonable no matter whether you are Buddist or Hindus or Christians, this is what we normally practicing in the family - for the good of everybody, and for us Azlina Jailani (Lina Joy) is our sister in the house of Islam, if she go away because of something that she not really understand about her faith (Islam) so we as Muslim will try to educate her on that matter otherwise we are not fair for let her in the doubt. And of cause we not force her to believe (in Islam) but we will try to reason with her and the decision is hers. Can you imagine your younger sister want to move out without give a noticed to your parent?

This process (mahkamah Syariah) is a part of Islamic teaching, and for me non-Muslim should not mingle on it as we Muslim not mingle on your religious teachings (we ought should respect each other). Moreover this mahkamah Syariah will not burn her alive as what was happens in India (as Reasonable has bring up) and if you noticed in Kartika case (she took alcohol), in Pahang, mahkamah Syariah has let her go without punishment just because she said that she has repented.

Unlike Kartika, Azlina Jailani never bring her case to mahkamah Syariah, and no trial on her at all, no judges have made any decision of her case in mahkamah Syariah but non-Muslim now allegedly claim that Muslim has prevented her from what she believe.....just not fair at all.

But I wonder why if Azlina Jailani really has some good reasons for convert out from Islam, why she afraid to go to mahkamah Syariah?"

My deleted response, wrote on 5th July:
"Hi fauzisg2,

The question is not on the legitimacy of Syariah over Muslims. As I have already expressed my agreement with you earlier on that it is fine that Syariah holds its judiciary over Muslims.

So it is not an issue of a daughter in the family that has moved out from the family without reason.

Lina Joy's case, as I have stated in my second and third reply to you, is that she is not part of the family anymore. The Syariah is not her real parent according to her own conscience.

So the illustration of "moving out" from a family that you used does not provide an accurate analogy for Lina Joy's case. In her case, it is a situation where she has found out who her real parent is. And she has renowned any relationship from the parent she once thought was her real parent.

With this new consideration in mind, she doesn't need to acknowledge the relationship (parent-daughter) she once had with the person she used to think was her parent.

So the more accurate illustration is not "Can you imagine your younger sister want to move out without give a noticed to your parent?"

A better illustration should be this: Can I imagine my younger sister chose to renown the family based on her expressed conscience which was the result of her current knowledge, and hence does not need to acknowledge me as her brother anymore?

Yes I can imagine that. If my younger sister chose not to acknowledge me as her brother based on her expressed conscience resulted from her current knowledge, then that's fine to me.

Kartika's is different from Lina Joy's case. The former still acknowledge Syariah to be her parent. So it is right that she submits herself to her parent.

The latter already has no whatsoever relationship with the Syariah. Hence she has no obligation to submit to the syariah as one submit to a parent. If Lina Joy submits, then that is like acknowledging a person who is not her parent as her parent.

Now, can you imagine a situation where you are being asked, contrary to your knowledge and conscience, to address someone who is not your father as your father?"

fauzisg2's third deleted response, wrote on 6th July:
"Hello Sze Zeng,

TQ! for this beautiful discussion. I see that from time to time your understanding on Islam is increasing, that is good.

But since you are not well expose to the Islamic teaching, there is still something that is so important about Islam that you over look. Here I will try to veil up that matter. Islam is the way of life reveal by Almighty God to mankind, Islam teaches every aspect of life, from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed again - even Islam teaches of how we should sleep, and I'm not kidding you, it is real.

Look at this, no other religion other than Islam that have their own ways of banking, we have! (e.g. Maybank Islamic etc. etc), Islam has guided us on that matter too.

If even in the tiny little thing like how to sleep has been guided by Islam, what about the most important thing such as how to get the salvation which will promise you the successful life in here after (everlasting life). In order for that successful, Islamic rules and regulations (mahkamah syariah) is there to assist you - just like your parent, they are there to help you.

One should understand that there is no terminology like 'mind your own business' in Islam, no, every thing that you are doing is measured in Islam, including if you want to convert out from Islam, we have an act on that. And when somebody want to convert out from Islam the act is waiting for him or her to face it. So they must undergo the trial process in mahkamah Syariah because this is the part of our teaching, nobody can ever escape from this process.

Remember this is a part of our teaching, nobody has right to stop it just like nobody has right to stop you from praying in the church because it is a part of the teaching in Christianity, do Muslims have right to stop you from attending your congregation? The answer is no!, do Christians have right to stop the jurisdiction of mahkamah Syariah, including it authority on whom want to convert out from Islam? And the answer is no too, because it is a part of the Islamic request.

As I said, to trial is more on counseling process or learning process. If she still want to convert out from Islam, it is her right but she must undergo the trial (in mahkamah Syariah) first because it is a part of our Islamic teaching, I hope you can understand.

So in Islam, whether you are convert in or convert out from Islam will be referred to Islamic laws. In islam there is no simply come in or go out just like that, no!

So I hope you and all the readers here will understand about the Islamic laws."

My non-deleted response (paste here so that readers may follow the argument), wrote on 6th July:
"Hi fauzisg2,

Thank you for explaining.

I understand it is part of your Islamic teaching.

I just want to give you a hypothetical scenario and see what is your response.

You are born into Christian family. You found out that Christianity is no longer your religion. So you decided to renown it and stop acknowledging it as your real religion.

But Christianity says that you cannot renown it and stop acknowledging it as your religion simply because you found out that it is not your real religion. They Christian Council requires you to get permission from them in your decision even when you are already convinced in your conscience and knowledge that Christianity is not your real religion.

Would you still submit to Christianity and the Christian Council to get permission from them to renown from your faith?

If you do, you are contradicting your own knowledge and conscience of who you are and what you stand for. And if you are alright to live in contradiction, then that is fine to you. But other people are not that alright to live in contradiction. So in this case, if you chose to live in contradiction by submitting to the Christian Council, then everyone should respect your choice. But if you chose not to live in contradiction by disregarding the Christian Council, then everyone should also respect your choice.

So would you or would you not submit?"

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Two 'science & religion' books based on interviews conducted with elite scientists

During the recent semester break, and in-between my internship in Kuala Lumpur, I get to read four books of which two are related to the topic of science and religion. Here they are:

Elaine Howard Ecklund has presented to us, in her newly published 'Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think', a well documented statistics comprising 1646 scientists across 21 elite American universities, ranging from Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Yale, Cornell, and others.

There are many interesting discovery from Ecklund's survey. She found that nearly 50% of these scientists are religiously affiliated (p.15). Besides that, "Nearly one in five is actively involved in a house of worship, attending more than once a month. This means that top scientists are sitting in the pews of our nation's congregations, temples, and mosques." (p.151)

We know that there are vocal anti-religion scientists who are out to ridicule and banish religion. Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers are obvious examples. These vocal ones make it as if the entire scientific community is hostile and against religion. Yet in Ecklund's findings, she met only five atheistic scientists among the rest that she interviewed who were very hostile and actively go against religion (p.150).


Contrary to the popular belief that there are almost none biologists who believe in God, Ecklund found that there are over 30% of biologists at top universities "have a firm belief in God." (p.130)

This book has many other statistical findings which are very informative to the topic on the relationship between science and religion. Many of these debunk popular rumors, such as a person will loss her faith if she becomes a scientist, circulated by those who are anti-religion as well as those who are anti-science.

One particularly interesting point that Ecklund included in the book is the conversation she had with Ian Hutchinson, Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at M.I.T, who is a Christian. Hutchinson mentions a supportive community at his workplace where natural and social scientists gather for fellowship. They talk about the challenges they face as scientists. He said that the biggest challenge facing these top scientists is not over how to reconcile science and religion because "most elite scientists seem to have reconciled these well before they came to their current posts." Their fellowship concerns more on the struggle to balance work demands with their life as scientists. (p.146)

This is particularly interesting because, firstly, it reveals the significance of having a supportive community to support one another among Christian scientists. Secondly, elite scientists who are Christians usually have no problem with the relationship between science and religion.

(Coincidentally I am currently helping my scientist and engineering friends to organize a local fellowship among Christian scientists, engineers, and those who are interested. The fellowship will explore the theme revolving the relationship between science and Christianity. We have just decided the details of our first meeting. It will be on the 14th July, 7.30pm-9.30pm. If you are interested, feel free to drop me an email ( for further information.)

Here is Ecklund's related article at

The other book that I have read is one edited by Mark Richardson and Gordy Slack. 'Faith in Science: Scientists Search for Truth' is a collection of 12 in-depth interviews with 12 scientists of which two of them are Nobel Laureates.

What amazes me about this book is the richness of the various approaches to the relationship between science and faith. Besides interviewing Catholic and Evangelical Christians, the book also highlights how Muslims, pantheist, witch, and religious Jews relate to the issue.

I am fascinated with the interviews with John Rodwell (Anglican priest and a botanist), Brian Cantwell Smith (cognitive and computer scientist and a philosopher), Mark Pesce (computer scientist and a witch), and Charles Towner (Protestant Christian and a physicist). Each of them engages their faith with their work diversely from the others.

John Rodwell is famous for his five-volume work British Plant Communities. It is an authoritative work used by "all British land-management agencies and provides a common taxonomic language for government, business and environmental groups." (p.35) When asked how does he relate his faith to his work as a plant sociologist, Rodwell shared, "I am very aware of a tension between my desire to impose my perception of order and my desire to allow thigns to be what they really are. I would say that I am trying to discover the names that were given to the realm of Creation by God himself. I am trying to liberate them, to allow them to be what God wanted them to be." (p.37)

Rodwell also shared about his aspiration to see more Christians who are able to theologically understand their vocation in the industry where they have been located. To him, that location is where religion bears its most distinctive meaning. And he has not encounter many Christians who possess the awareness of the theological significance of the places they are located at. (p.47-49)

Brian C. Smith is the son of the famed theologian Wilfred C. Smith at Harvard. One can hardly categorize Brian Smith's perception of God into the traditional sense. In his own expression, "To the extent I understand the word "God" at all, it is as a word for everything. [...] "God" [...] is the reminder connoting the "moreness," yet ultimate unity, of everything." (p.66) The nearest category of this is the pantheistic notion.

Smith sees that the current concern of science is only over the 'truth' of the reality. Compared to the ancient reverence for the meaning of the ultimate reality which is the true, the beautiful, and the good, Smith envisions science to include all these three virtues. "One of my most basic metaphysical commitments is that truth, beauty and goodness aren't completely separated." (p.61)

Given his understanding of metaphysic, Smith firmly assert the place for theology as well as science in human quest for ultimate significance. He believes that "the updated science and the updated theology will ultimately turn into the same project." (p.62) And he is on a pursuit to find a common vocabulary that both religious and anti-religious people can use to signify the "ultimate things." (p.67) I suspect many Christians will have difficulty endorsing Smith's view, but, personally, I think he makes good sense.

Charles Townes is a Nobel Laureate. Commenting on the legitimacy of faith vis-a-vis science, Townes remarked, "... the faith [all] scientists have is so fundamental and all pervasive that most don't realize it is faith. We have faith that the universe follow reliable laws, that the universe is not ruled by many different kinds of conflicting laws, that the physical laws are real. We also have faith that human mind can understand many of these laws. [...] The faith that scientists have is not that different from believing in one reliable God." (p.173)

Townes here professes a more critical stand over the relation between science and religion as compared to Stephen Hawking. Townes recognizes the need to be humble at both end of the relation. After commenting on the side of religion, Townes went on to say that, "I think scientists are increasingly humble, particularly physicists, because they've been through revolutions and they recognize in very hard, quantitative ways, where they haven't understood things and where they still don't understand things." (p.182)

Mark Pesce is a pioneer of the Virtual Reality who developed the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML). And he is also a witch. Yes, no kidding. In the book, he describes how the practice of witchcraft parallels with his conception and development of the virtual world. I shall stop here since it is getting late already.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Original language and preaching

Kong Hee said, from 37 second onwards in this video, ""Christos kai cosmos" actually means "taking Christ into culture.""

Everyone who learn New Testament Greek know that "Christos kai cosmos" literally means "Christ and world." I have no idea how did Kong Hee come to interpret that Greek phrase that way.

I have been to many Charismatic services where the pastors on the stage drop a few Greek and Hebrew words here and there during their sermon. Then they will formulate some weird teaching out of those words which they claim to be the original meaning.

Since most of us seating on the pews don't know these languages, we are easily led by what the pastors say. Even if it is wrong, we wouldn't know it unless we learn the language. But if these pastors know the language and expound it accordingly, we are edified and grateful to them for helping us to understand better.

Non-Muslims are tricked/forced to convert to Islam in Malaysia

The Nut Graph published 2 accounts of conversion carried out in despicable and deceptive manner. Despite these living testimonies, the staffs of the organization involved brushed aside these reports as mere "talk" implying there is no evident for them.

One of these victims of forced conversion named Angeh whose Muslim name is Mohd Zaki Abdullah.
According to Angeh, [two officers] visited him at his uncle’s house where he was staying about eight years ago. He said he thought they were trying to help him apply for his identity card, which he had lost.

Angeh, now 26, said he was given something to recite, which he thought was part of his IC application. “I asked them, ‘Apa benda ni?’ [What is this?] They said, ‘Syahadah ja, cakap ja.’” [It's the Syahadah, just say it]

Angeh said he did not know at the time that reciting the syahadah meant he was converting to Islam. He only found out after his uncle told him he was now a convert.

“I never asked to convert. I had no intention, none,” Angeh said.
Another testimony is by someone who needs to remain anonymous to prevent his job from being jeopardized:
He said he was then brought to the menteri besar’s Shah Alam residence where food was served. “At about 8pm, during prayer time, they brought us to the big surau in Shah Alam. There were lots of others there, some from Sabah and Sarawak. They told us to recite [the syahadah].”

The staff member said he was shocked. “I told them, ‘I don’t want to convert to Islam, my family doesn’t know about this. If you had told me earlier, I would not have come.’ Saidon told me, ‘You’ve already come here; we’ll teach your family to follow you. Just recite.’”

The staff member, who is now in his 30s, said he was in a difficult situation. He said due to the pressure of the situation, he recited the syahadah. But he had to do so four times because he found it difficult to say the words. He claimed he was then given some food and RM250.

He added, “I reached home about midnight after the event and told my family what had happened. My wife was furious. She told me, ‘You said you were going for kenduri. How did you end up converting to Islam?’
This is happening in Malaysia. Certain Muslims, who are politically enabled, think that it is alright to deceive people into Islam. I am not sure if Islam teaches this but if they claim that this is Islamic teaching, then I find the religion as practiced by these Muslims very troubling.

The Muslims in Malaysia demand others to respect their conviction, but do they respect others? How would the Muslim community feels if their members are being deceived and tricked to convert into other religion?