Why Recent Court Judgments Which Restrict Religious Freedom May be Questioned.

This article demonstrates how the current view that only the Syariah Court has the jurisdiction to rule on the status on those who had renounced Islam began with a misreading of a minority view in an earlier Supreme Court’s judgment in Dalip Kaur and treating it as setting a binding precedent. The non-binding minority view subsequently turned into ratio decidendi when the Federal Court in Soon Singh case approved the High Court’s judgment which ‘followed’ the minority view instead of the ratio of the majority judgment in Dalip Kaur.

Confusion between ratio decidendi (“the reason for the decision” which has legal binding effect) and orbiter dictum (“an incidental, by the way statement” which has only persuasive value) also arose in cases relating to religious freedom in Malaysia.

I refer readers to the careful analysis by Kuek Chee Ying & Tay Eng Siang in “When Orbiter Dictum and Minority View Become Ratio Decidendi” published in the Malayan Law Journal (2015) volume 3, pages lxxxii-xcvi Continue reading ‘Why Recent Court Judgments Which Restrict Religious Freedom May be Questioned.’ »

No Exegesis Without Theology; No Theology Without Exegesis

Students entering the seminary are often told that systematic theology should be rooted in biblical theology, and biblical theology in turn is grounded in biblical exegesis of Scripture. After all, Scripture is the source of Christian theology. It is suggested that the biblical interpretation and the theological enterprise follow three separate and distinct phases:

1) Exegesis: Linguistic analysis of the biblical texts, using Greek and Hebrew lexical tools to arrive at a reasonable and coherent meaning of a biblical passage in its original context.
2) Biblical theology: “Sets forth the message of the books of the Bible in their historical setting…expounding the theology found in the Bible in its own historical setting, and its own terms, categories, and thought forms. Biblical theology is primarily a descriptive discipline.” Donald Hagner in George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, revised ed. (Eerdmans, 1993), p. 20.
3) Systematic theology: Organizes and synthesizes key ideas of the bible in their logical relations in dialogue with philosophy and Christian theological tradition.

John Murray wrote that ‘Systematic theology will fail of its task to the extent to which it discards its rootage in biblical theology as properly conceived and developed.’ [Collected Writings, vol.4, (Banner of Truth, 1982), p. 19]. It may be concluded that the systematic theologian relies on the spadework done by biblical scholars in the exegetical vineyard. Continue reading ‘No Exegesis Without Theology; No Theology Without Exegesis’ »

Apostle Paul’s Gift-Grace and the New Perspective on Paul

Douglas Moo, whose commentaries on Romans and Galatians are among the best recent writings on Paul has just written a superb review essay, John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift and the New Perspective on Paul in the free online journal Themelios.* Barclay’s book has also been acclaimed as “one of the most important books on Paul in recent years.”

The excerpts of the review given below give a glimpse into his surefooted and balanced assessment of the controversy between the Reformation and the New Perspective on Paul (NPP).

Moo welcomes Barclay’s book as a via media between the Augustinian-Lutheran tradition and the reconfiguration of the NPP. He recapitulates the history of the controversy:

“In the first stage, the key figures in the movement, Tom Wright and James Dunn, began their invasion of the “old perspective” redoubt with seminal articles that appropriated E. P. Sanders’s “new perspective on Judaism.” Sanders’s reconfiguration of Jewish soteriology as “covenantal nomism” posed a significant problem for the interpreters of Paul: just who was it that Paul was attacking when he denied that a person could be justified by “works of the law”? Since, according to Sanders, Jews were not trying to be justified by doing the law, some other problem within Judaism had to be identified as the culprit. Building on Krister Stendahl’s stress on the importance of corporate thinking in Paul’s world, Dunn and Wright identified the Jewish tendency to confine salvation to their own nation as that culprit. I might just note here that this “new perspective” on Paul grew out of a profoundly conservative impulse. Continue reading ‘Apostle Paul’s Gift-Grace and the New Perspective on Paul’ »

Be Assured that Syariah Law WILL be Imposed on non-Muslims

PAS politicians and some UMNO government officials repeatedly assure non-Muslims that that Syariah law will not be applied to them even as Abdul Hadi Awang tables the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) (Amendment) Bill 2016 to widen the scope of the criminal jurisdiction of Syariah Courts. However, non-Muslims have reasons to doubt whether the assurance is empty, if not disingenuous, when the authorities in Kelantan and officials in various government departments repeatedly impose public policies that infringe on the fundamental liberties of non-Muslims. It is the duty of every conscientious Member of Parliament to reject any proposed legislation that violates the provisions in the Federal Constitution that protect the rights of non-Muslims and Muslims against punitive criminal actions based on religious precepts.

Beware when the wolf ‘courteously’ invites the lamb for supper in his den when it is seen sharpening its claws and teeth.

To read the full article, visit a new post at Religious Liberty Watch: Be Assured Syariah Law WILL be Imposed on non-Muslims


D.A. Carson’s Lectures on the New Perspective on Paul

It is no longer chic to be a scholar who advocates the New Perspective on Paul (NPP).  Its advocates have backtracked somewhat from its audacious claims that the Reformation has misread Paul. Furthermore, the New Testament guild has since moved on to new fashions like studies on social identity, and the gospel and empire. Indeed, the latest flavor in town is on the ‘Apocalyptic Paul’.

On the other hand, that the NPP is no longer chic does not mean that it is no longer interesting or relevant. After all, the NPP touches on crucial methodological issues like early Judaism and historical hermeneutics, and central elements of salvation concerning covenant and justification. Continue reading ‘D.A. Carson’s Lectures on the New Perspective on Paul’ »

Calvin-Reformed Tradition Is Inappropriate Today; It Also Lacks Humility & Grace?

In response to some concerns expressed by a reader:
Calvin’s system is inappropriate as a model for engagement with contemporary postmodernism.
– The “liberty” and grace you mention sometimes to me is not apparent when speaking to those of the Reformed persuasion.


First, the 22 volumes (22,224 pages) of Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible and Calvin’s multi-volumes sermons show that that Calvin is more a bible scholar and preacher than a builder of a rigid theological system. Not surprisingly, Calvin’s Institutes is replete with scriptural references. Calvin was a man of his times. It would be ridiculous to uphold him as someone who has ready answers for Christians who are grappling with different questions in different social contexts.

Calvin’s insights may be appropriated for our times only insofar as they are in congruence with the teachings of the Bible. For example, even though the arguments given by Calvinists to support paedobaptism may be admirable, I remained unconvinced on grounds that its exegetical support is insufficient.  In any case, Calvin would approve of Christians who insist that his teaching should be judged by its fidelity to Scripture.

Second, Calvin was not the rationalist that he is made out to be, by both his over-zealous followers and critics. Continue reading ‘Calvin-Reformed Tradition Is Inappropriate Today; It Also Lacks Humility & Grace?’ »

Calvinism Beyond 5-Points – Its Surpassing Vision of God’s Glory

By God’s grace and for his glory –  let every Calvinist be a God-intoxicated Christian!

A good friend posed this question to my earlier post, “SUPER” & “TULIP”CALVINISM: A Joyful Vision of God’s Supremacy and Sovereignty: “But have you succeeded in providing an “accurate and fair summary of Calvinism”? Have you not merely produced an adaptation of the 17th Century reply to the Remonstrants, however crucial that may be?”

Pardon me if I get a bit carried away and wax poetic in my response: How not to, when one meditates on the glory of God with the heart and mind of Calvin and his distinguished followers like Jonathan Edwards and B.B. Warfield?

Anyone one who has the slightest acquaintance with Calvin’s thought and its theological elaboration in the writings of Jonathan Edwards and B.B. Warfield would know that Calvinism offers a most comprehensive and intoxicating vision of God’s  glory and love in the world. This is what the last paragraph of my earlier post, “SUPER” & “TULIP”CALVINISM: A Joyful Vision of God’s Supremacy and Sovereignty points to. Was it not Abraham Kuyper who declares that for the Calvinist? – “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of my personal devotions and churchgoing over which Christ does not cry: mine!”

It would be an impoverishment of Christian faith if Calvinism is reduced to only 5-points. Calvinism is a whole way of life set before the glorious presence and lordship of God. Continue reading ‘Calvinism Beyond 5-Points – Its Surpassing Vision of God’s Glory’ »

Calvin: From Academic to Integrated Theologian

Wrenched from the Academic Path
John Calvin as an academic animal would rather spend his time quietly in a library. Naturally, he declined an offer to teach and minister at Geneva in 1536. It was clear to him that hard days lie ahead for anyone seeking to teach and reform a city that was recalcitrant in its moral waywardness and rebellious towards teaching authority.

One night in that unruly city of Geneva was enough. Time for Calvin to pack and proceed to Strasbourg to pursue his academic dreams and ambitions. Alas, his departure was blocked by William Farel who thundered at the young scholar:

Farel waxed eloquent as he described the miraculous work of God in the city of Geneva stressed that the City needed a man of Calvin’s stature and skill. Calvin protested, expressing his desire to spend his time writing in the safety of some remote city.

“Leisure, learning – when it is a matter of acting!” shouted Farel in indignation. “Do you want to desert the Reformation of this city? I am at the point of breaking down under the load and you will deny me your assistance!” Continue reading ‘Calvin: From Academic to Integrated Theologian’ »

“SUPER” & “TULIP”CALVINISM: A Joyful Vision of God’s Supremacy and Sovereignty

The acronym TULIP is used widely to describe the essence of Calvinism and Reformed Theology:
Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

The TULIP acronym portrays a pretty blossom, but its artificiality betrays a lack of delicacy and fragrance of a real living flower. This would please critics of Calvinism who have judged Calvinism to be dark and distasteful, much like barren soil unfit for spiritual cultivation, which, not surprisingly, could only produce an artificial ‘flower’. Calvinism has been used as a term of abuse. Calvinists, like the early Christians have also been accused of causing social tyranny and cultural oppression. Hence, the celebrated American journalist, H.L. Mencken famously placed Calvinism next to Cannibalism in his “cabinet of horror”!

The essence of Calvinism described by TULIP comes across as an abstract construct that is driven by cold and remorseless logic. It was no accident that Calvinists prefer to use the phrase “marrow of Calvinism” rather than the “essence of Calvinism” since “marrow” describes the inner substance of the bone that produces blood cells, and hence typifies strength and vitality.

Calvinism as a Practical Spiritual Discipline
A good start to address these widespread prejudice and stereotypical distortions of Calvinism would be to highlight the comprehensive vision and dynamic spirituality of Calvinism which has bequeathed the world a lasting legacy in free and public education (Harvard, Yale and Princeton Universities were founded by Calvinists). Continue reading ‘“SUPER” & “TULIP”CALVINISM: A Joyful Vision of God’s Supremacy and Sovereignty’ »

Inerrancy of the Bible: Defined and Defended. Part 2

Related Post: Inerrancy of the Bible: Defined and Defended. Part 1

II. Inerrancy was Affirmed Throughout Church History
Michael Bird refers to a recent historical thesis advocated by Jack Rogers and Donald McKim who assert that inerrancy is a recent a recent development which emerged from conservatives when they reacted defensively to the challenge of the Enlightenment. However, the truth is that the doctrine of inerrancy is not recent phenomenon as it has been affirmed throughout church history. The careful documentation and thorough study by John D. Woodbridge, Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Zondervan 1982) demonstrates conclusively that Rogers and McKim’s historical thesis is flawed as it is based on skewed handling of historical sources. Woodbridge confirms that while inerrancy was not a major feature in the development of doctrines, nevertheless the Church has always affirmed inerrancy as a matter of fact. Continue reading ‘Inerrancy of the Bible: Defined and Defended. Part 2’ »