The Federal Constitution, Islamisation and the Malaysian Legal Order

Related Post, Highly Recommended: Interfaith Council Urges MPs to Vote Against Hadi’s Upgrade Shariah Courts Bill

by Guest Writer Mr. Lim Heng Seng.

[The policy introduced by the Mahathir administration in the early 1980s, innocuously promoting Islamic universal values, became a platform for certain quarters to embark on a drive to change the fundamental character of the Malaysia polity and its legal order.

Will Malaysia end up as an Islamic or quasi-Islamic state by the gradual and subtle re-writing of her foundational document, the Federal Constitution?  Or will she retain her character as an essentially secular nation?

These developments in Islamisation threaten to subvert the very foundation on which we, the citizens, and the territorial components of Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak have held together as one nation.]

Continue reading ‘The Federal Constitution, Islamisation and the Malaysian Legal Order’ »

Critiquing N.T. Wright’s Eschatology: Why the Huffs and Puffs?

N.T. Wright commends an eschatology that is supported by three fundamental structures of hope: 1) the goodness of creation, 2) the reality of evil in God’s permissive will and 3) God’s work of redemption as a re-creation. His vision of the future is comprehensively explored through six biblical images:

1. Seedtime and Harvest [1 Cor. 15]
2. The Victorious Battle [1 Cor. 15]
3. Citizens of Heaven, Colonizing Earth [Phil. 3:20-21]
4. God will be all in all [1 Co.r 15:28]
5. New birth [Rom. 8], and
6. The marriage of heaven and earth [Rev. 21-22]

[Source: N.T.Wright, Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection & the Mission of the Church (Harper Collins,  2008)

Wright’s eschatology marches towards an exciting grand finale when there will be a union of the new heavens and the new earth, “the final accomplishment of God’s great design, to defeat and abolish death forever—which can only mean the rescue of creation from its present plight of decay.” [p. 105] He emphasizes there will be both continuity and discontinuity between the old and new creation. Continue reading ‘Critiquing N.T. Wright’s Eschatology: Why the Huffs and Puffs?’ »

Second Thoughts on N.T. Wright’s Second Thoughts on Heaven

It is good that one of my readers points out that we need to appreciate N.T. Wright’s writings as a needed correction of popular Christian thinking where the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ is little mentioned. I agree with her concerns, although I think the weekly Lord’s Supper of the local Brethren churches often refers to Jesus Christ. In any case, I appreciate the reminder. Actually, I debated whether to include the beginning and the end of Horton’s review, where he writes of his appreciation of Wright’s needed correction for popular (a)theology. However, as the post needs to be brief, I left it to the reader to read the appreciative parts from the review itself.

Anyone familiar with Wright knows he’s a master storyteller. In that regard, The Day the Revolution Began may be his best, especially for a popular audience. But more than a good narrator, Wright is steeped in the world of Jesus and Paul, bringing decades of scholarship to the task. Still more, the story he tells is vital for us to hear; he exposes the wider redemptive-historical canvas that challenges tendencies to domesticate the gospel to a platonized eschatology focused on the salvation of the individual believer from this world rather than the redemption of all believers with this world…

Even if its provocations strike one as reactionary at times, they should be allowed to strike home nonetheless. If they’re sometimes overcorrections, perhaps they may be allowed at least to correct our distortions, exaggerations, and reductions. Continue reading ‘Second Thoughts on N.T. Wright’s Second Thoughts on Heaven’ »

N. T. Wright Reconsiders the Meaning of Jesus’s Death: An Appreciative but Critical Review

It comes as no surprise to me when Scott McKnight adds a punch when he gives an unqualified recommendation of NT Wright latest book, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. McKnight writes,

One glaring weakness Wright observes with fierce clarity — that most atonement theories both build on one another in a kind of inner-dogmatic history discussion and at the same time ignore what Jesus said and did about atonement. Here are his important words:
Right away we meet something very peculiar. You might suppose that if Christian theologians were going to trace the meaning of Jesus’s death, they would begin with Jesus himself. Mostly, they do not. I possess many books on the “atonement.” Few give much attention to the gospels. None, as far as I recall, starts with Jesus himself. [Ahem, sir.] They may sooner or later highlight one famous saying, Mark 10:45 (“The son of man . . . came to be the servant, to give his life ‘as a ransom for many’”), but they do not normally go much beyond that. They seldom if ever link the meaning of Jesus’s death with Jesus’s announcement of God’s kingdom coming “on earth as in heaven.” They seldom highlight the fact that Jesus chose to go to Jerusalem and (so it seems) force some kind of a showdown with the authorities not on the Day of Atonement, not at the Festival of Tabernacles, the Festival of Dedication, or any other special day on the sacred calendar, laden with meaning as they were, but at Passover (170).

Once again seminary students are led to believe that the “Mc-‘Knight’ in W(b)right armor” has come to the rescue in ridding tradition of its theological distortions, in this case, the reductionist and crude theory of penal atonement.

However, students who are better informed about the depth and richness of the Reformation covenant tradition would take issues with the caricatures of the “Knight in W(b)right armor.” Continue reading ‘N. T. Wright Reconsiders the Meaning of Jesus’s Death: An Appreciative but Critical Review’ »


On Male Headship and Female Submission

Sam Storms’ remarkable taxonomic heterogeneity (Amillennial, Calvinistic, charismatic, credo-baptistic, complementarian) may be taken as evidence of a confused mind, but his writings is a model of depth in simplicity which indicates a mind of firm and clear conviction. Given below are some excerpts taken from his four recent posts related to “10-things on male headship and female submission.”

On Male Headship
Among the many misconceptions about male headship in Scripture I mention these. First, husbands are never commanded to rule their wives, but to love them. The Bible never says, “Husbands, take steps to insure that your wives submit to you.” Nor does it say, “Husbands, exercise headship and authority over your wives.” Rather, the principle of male headship is either asserted or assumed and men are commanded to love their wives as Christ loves the church…Headship is never portrayed in Scripture as a means for self-satisfaction or self-exaltation. Headship is always other-oriented. I can’t think of a more horrendous sin than exploiting the God-given responsibility to lovingly lead by perverting it into justification for using one’s wife and family to satisfy one’s lusts and thirst for power.

Headship is not the power of a superior over an inferior. Continue reading ‘On Male Headship and Female Submission’ »

Thomas Schreiner’s Critique of N.T. Wright’s View of Justification – Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 7

NPP Reading No. 4
Excerpts taken from: Thomas Schreiner, Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught…and Why it Still Matters (Zondervan, 2015)

Problems with Wright’s View of Justification
[244] I see three false polarities in Wright’s thought. First, he wrongly says that justification is primarily about ecclesiology instead of soteriology. Second, he often introduces a false polarity when referring to the mission of Israel by saying that Israel’s fundamental problem was its failure to bless the world whereas Paul focuses on Israel’s inherent sinfulness. Third, he insists that justification is a declaration of God’s righteousness but does not include the imputation of God’s righteousness.

Ecclesiology or Soteriology?
[244] Let’s begin with the first point of discussion, which fits with the idea that justification is more about the church than the individual. Wright mistakenly claims that justification is fundamentally about ecclesiology instead of soteriology. Let’s hear it in his own words, “Justification is not how someone becomes a Christian. It is the declaration that they have become a Christian.” And, “What Paul means by justification, in this context, should therefore be clear. It is not ‘how you become a Christian,’ as much as ‘how you can tell who is a member of the covenant family.’”

[245] Justification has to do with whether one is right before God, whether one is acquitted or condemned, whether one is pardoned or found guilty, and that is a soteriological matter. Continue reading ‘Thomas Schreiner’s Critique of N.T. Wright’s View of Justification – Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 7’ »

NPP – Regensburg (1541) Redux? Reformation Forensic Justification vs Transformative Justification: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 6

In 1541, the Emperor Charles V convened a theological conference at Regensburg (also known as Ratisbon) bringing together the top Catholic theologians Johann Eck and Albertus Pighius to meet with some of the greatest theologians of the Reformation at that time, Philip Melanchthon and Martin Bucer (John Calvin was there merely to keep a watching brief). The Emperor hoped that resolving the doctrinal conflict between the Roman Catholics and the Reformers would bring unity to the empire.

The theologians quickly reached agreement on the issue of original sin and Pelagianism. The Roman Catholics made unexpected large concessions in their debate on the doctrine of justification. The conference eventually issued a statement on the subject of justification by faith which even acknowledged that it is by faith we “are justified (i.e. accepted and reconciled to God) inasmuch as it appropriates the mercy and righteousness which is imputed to us on account of Christ and his merit, not on account of the worthiness or perfection of the righteousness imparted [communicatae] to us in Christ… Although the one who is justified receives righteousness and through Christ also has inherent [righteousness]…nevertheless, the faithful soul depends not on this, but only on the righteousness of Christ given to us as a gift, without which there is and can be no righteousness at all. And so by faith in Christ we are justified or reckoned to be righteous, that is we are accepted through his merits and not on account of our own worthiness or works.” [Anthony Lane, “Appendix I: The Regensburg Agreement (1541), Article 5” in Justification by Faith in Catholic-Protestant Dialogue: An Evangelical Assessment (T&T Clark, 2002), p. 235.]

However, Article 5.4 requires a closer examination: Continue reading ‘NPP – Regensburg (1541) Redux? Reformation Forensic Justification vs Transformative Justification: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 6’ »

Justification and Union With Christ – A Via Media Between Abstract Forensic and Transformative Justification. Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 5.

Justification and Union With Christ – A Via Media Between Abstract Forensic and Transformative Justification

It has been suggested that Reformed theologians defending forensic justification and imputation of Christ righteousness have misread, if not misrepresented the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) as a serious threat to the Reformation. This must surely be a wild exaggeration to suggest that Reformed theologians who have been debating the issue with the best of the Roman Catholic theologians for 500 years would feel insecure and threatened by NPP, the new kid on the block? In any event, Reformed scholars have often risen to the defence of “forensic justification and imputation of righteousness” not because it is ‘The Centre’ of Paul’s theology, but simply because this aspect of justification has been directly challenged by various theological movements throughout history which include Roman Catholicism, Socinianism and more recently, NPP.

Admittedly, it is possible for the heirs of the Reformation to over-react to these challenges. Thus some of the more extreme scholars of Lutheran scholasticism not only ascribe justification as the absolute central tenet of faith, but uphold justification to be above Christology. One wonders whether in the process, justification has become an abstract event detached from Christ. Continue reading ‘Justification and Union With Christ – A Via Media Between Abstract Forensic and Transformative Justification. Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 5.’ »

Righteousness and Justification in the Book of Galatians: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 4

N.T. Wright asserted in his debate with Richard Gaffin at the Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference in 2005, and elsewhere in his numerous writings that the debate on justification in Gal 3:14 is not about the gift of righteousness as it is about determining the grounds for inclusion of the Gentiles into the covenant. As Wright writes,

“Justification” in the first century was not about how someone might establish a relationship with God. It was about God’s eschatological definition, both future and present, of who was, in fact, a member of his people. In Sanders’ terms, it was not so much about “getting in,” or indeed about “staying in,” as about “how you could tell who was in.” In standard Christian theological language, it wasn’t so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church. [What Saint Paul Really Said, p. 119]

Gaffin who seems to be a far better scholar than a debater failed to challenge Wright understanding of righteousness and justification with evidence based on biblical linguistic-theology or to question the coherence of Wright’s view from the logic of systematic theology.

Given below are excerpts taken from Douglas Moo’s excellent commentary on Galatians which offers a more plausible reading than Wright on the linguistic meaning of righteousness and justification in Gal. 3:14. Continue reading ‘Righteousness and Justification in the Book of Galatians: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and NPP. Part 4’ »