John Sung and Mental Illness

john sung01

I am fascinated by how God uses people with mental illnesses. One of the persons I am studying is John Sung, a famous Chinese evangelist in South East Asia and China during the Twentieth Century. I have written a paper on John Sung and his mental illness and had presented it at The Society of the Study of Christian Spirituality Conference in the University of Notre Dame a few years ago. I have been meaning to rewrite the paper for publication but have not got around to it yet.

I came across some new insights at “The Biographical Dictionary of CHINESE Christianity.

John Sung’s life story is interesting

According to his testimony, he continued to read broadly; translated the Dao De Jing into English, and exploring philosophy and history on his own. He was at first influenced by his theologically liberal teachers, but everything changed – again, according to his testimony – when he underwent a dramatic conversion while attending evangelistic meetings in January, 1927. He also said he was born again on February 10 of that year.

Fully transformed, Song zealously evangelized his professors, warning them of eternal punishment if they did not repent. They were not amused, and had him locked up in an insane asylum, where he proceeded to read the Bible through at forty times in seven months. He was released through the efforts of an American pastor, and returned to China in 1927.
That is the story which has come down from Song and his biographers, especially Leslie Lyall.

However

Recent research, based partly on reliable archival materials from Union Theological Seminary, paint a different picture. It seems that Song really did suffer some sort of psychological breakdown, leading to hallucinations, strange dreams, visions, and bizarre behavior, including impenetrable letters and diagrams. Having been diagnosed as psychotic by three psychiatrists, he signed the self-admittance form to Bloomingdale Hospital in White Plains, New York.

My personal diagnosis is that John Sung suffers from Manic Depressive Psychosis.

While in the mental hospital, he became obsessed with a female goddess, “Shenmu, the Queen Mother,” whom he variously called, “Mary, Mother of Jesus, Queen of Queens,” “Mary Magdelen, Mother of Christ,” or simply, “Goddess.” On April 4, 1927, he “married” her in a ceremony that included a “holy kill and holy union.” His diaries contain messages that he purportedly received from her. Later, he ceased writing and filled his diaries with complicated digrams and graphs that supposedly showed the correlation between the Gospels and radio waves….Song returned to China instead of resuming classes at Union. One of the first things he did was to visit the temple of Guanyin, a Buddhist figure sometimes merged with the Taoist Queeen Mother of the West.

This part about his mental illness seemed to suggest that he had schizophrenia. The material about his association with Quan Yin, the Daoist Goddess of Mercy was new to me.

However, this does not deter me from believing that God uses people with mental illness for His purpose. My thesis is that not only use God uses people with mental illness, He uses the mental illness itself. Otherwise, how do we explain how in his short 12 years of active ministry, John Sung did more for Christianity than most people did in a lifetime.

In that 12 years, John Sung empowered the churches in South East Asia by visiting them in at least three tours, and also laid the foundation for the churches in China in his travels around the country that enable the churches to survive the Communist takeover. This could be the manic energy from his mental illness that allowed him to preach three times a day and five times on Sunday for months at a time!

Assurance

eternal_security

Today’s guest post is by Dr Tang U-Liang

One less talked about heritage of the Reformation is perhaps on the topic of assurance. It follows naturally from Luther’s (re)discovery that justification is by faith alone. But the connection is perhaps not as straightforward as one might think.
It is perhaps been supposed in Christian circles that we can have assurance of salvation because we are not saved on the basis of our good works or good behaviour. Instead, since we only need to believe, we can be assured of our salvation. If salvation had been by works, so the argument goes, then our success in works is not certain, for we may fail. We are after all merely human. So therefore, since salvation is not by works (but by faith), we have full assurance.
But I don’t think it follows, logically speaking, that one’s assurance of salvation as a Christian is obtained on the basis of our faith alone. After all, in 2 Peter 1:3-11, Peter talks about the effort to attain to godliness, virtue and love in addition to faith as a way to “confirm your calling and election.” The assurance of salvation therefore cannot be just obtained from mere introspection of our confession in absence of evidence. On the contrary, we see here that Peter recognises that “for in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” There is no entrance through the pearly gates without evidence of a changed life.
It could seem like a “betrayal” to some Christians to discover that Christianity isn’t just about believing, but that it demands some thing from us. But what then of assurance? How can we still say that we can go to heaven if we die tomorrow but yet need to “confirm our election”. It does seem like a contradiction in terms.
The thinking that salvation is tied to the success or failure of our good works is so hard wired into our human psyche that assurance is often mistakenly interpreted in terms of a basic opposition between what we need to do for ourselves versus what we cannot do for ourselves (i.e. for which matters does God have intervene).
Instead, assurance rightly understood in the context of God’s covenant with us upon our putting our trust in him. After conversion, to be assured of salvation is to believe first and foremost that God is no longer angry with us because of sin, but have forgiven us completely. It is His convenant with us that He will never abandon us after conversion but will continually be with us until the day we die and see Him again. This is what assurance is. In assurance the question is not so much “Will I go to heaven?” as it is “Does God still love me?” to which the answer (to both questions) is a resounding “YES!”
So often in discussions of assurance and in the debate between Calvinists and Arminians on the correctness of “once saved always saved” what is often an unspoken assumption on both sides is that salvation is tied to the sincerity or genuineness of faith. Well, then we ask, how do we know that our faith is genuine? The assumption here is that a Christian can finally fall away by just finally denying Christ.
But I contend that nobody, once making a profession for Christ, will suddenly one day just say “ I no longer believe” for no good reason at all. Indeed, a Christian may renounce the faith, but usually under extreme persecution and even so, I very doubt that that counts as apostasy. And because true apostasy is final (c.f. Hebrews 6:1-8), mere public denunciations of the faith does not necessarily mean apostasy. If so, people like Peter (who denied Christ) and Wang Ming Dao were irrevocably “unsaved”. Instead, the great danger for all Christians is not renunciation of belief, but an abandoning of their walk with God. Merely maintaining the outward forms of a religion while the inner man does not love God anymore.
How then does assurance fit in into this? There is at least three aspects of assurance that I can think of that relate to the life of a Christian in the body: The assurance of justification, the assurance of perseverance (or sanctification) and the assurance that we will see God again (the second coming of Christ). It is in that we know that we are justified, that we can draw near to God. The Father is no longer angry with us and loves us, so we have that assurance that He will never cast us out (from our proverbial Eden) ever again. The assurance of justification is our rainbow in the sky, for when evil befalls us, it is not a punishment for sins, but the discipline of a loving Father. It is through this assurance that we need not put barriers between us and God (Hebrews 4:16). No longer any need to pray to the saints, or Mary or have a priest intercede on our behalf because we have Christ to do all these for us. We do not need to worship from afar – the curtain rent from top to bottom.
There is at least three aspects of assurance that I can think of that relate to the life of a Christian in the body: The assurance of justification, the assurance of perseverance (or sanctification) and the assurance that we will see God again (the second coming of Christ).
The assurance of perseverance is the assurance that we will never lack in the energy to godliness throughout our entire lives. We are promised a “new heart” (Ezekiel 36:26) and so while there is striving, and effort and much denying of self, it is not exhausting, nor a burdensome and empty ritual we perform. It done out of love, and therefore its place in our salvation becomes less a matter of earning marks, as it is to please our Father in heaven. We can see that even though God demands works of us, he does not demand it as exchange for a place in heaven, but because he is a holy God and we are to be like him.
And finally we have assurance that our salvation will be completed. God is the author and perfecter of our faith. If we have been called, we will be assured that God will finish the job. Once again, we will meet him on the beautiful shore, where every tear will be wiped from our eyes and death, the final enemy is no more. All the warnings about falling away, all the cajoling and the encouragement to live a god fearing life are fulfilled in the second coming of Christ. Once it was a warning, and when Christ comes again, we see how it was used to turn our stubborn hearts around. Once we felt that God was far away, but when we finally see his face, we realise that he never left us. Month after month, we ate the bread and drank the wine of his presence, waiting for the day when we will feast with him in heaven, that day is now, when Christ comes again.

 

It is a bare cold rock, far from the warmth that heaven brings. But come it will, borne on a chariot and peals of trumpet song. Bright sound, He comes announced and To all who hear him cry, “At last!”

Taking your spiritual temperature

What is your spiritual temperature?

Temperature.Digital-thermometer

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of Darkness”, writes Charles Dickens in his novel, A Tale of Two Cities. The two cities, Dickens has in mind are Paris and London. We, Christians are also living in a Tale of Two Cities. The Bible refers to the two cities as Jerusalem and Babylon. We are part of an epic drama that involves our eternal souls.

 

We are fast approaching the new millenium, a time of great happenings, a time when our Lord may come again in glory. We are told to be alert to His Coming, be ready for His Coming. “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” (Mark13:37)

Wang Ming Tao, a famous Chinese Christian taught us to always check our life with a spiritual thermometer so that we will be spiritually healthy when the Lord comes.

 

 [place a ‘x’ at the area where you feel are in spiritually at this moment]

Healthy Spiritual Life           Unhealthy Spiritual Life

 

Fervent in prayer           Lethargic in prayer

 

Bible reading tasteful

 

          Bible reading insipid
Fully trusting           Anxious and doubting

 

Loving God more than everything           Loving worldly things more than God

 

Resisting and hating sin           Compromising with sin

 

Giving God the glory in all things           Seeking self glory in everything

 

Fully at peace           Much worrying

 

Giving thanks in all           Much murmuring

 

Always happy and singing           Always sad and sighing

 

Peaceful and patient in trouble           Easily provoked to anger

 

Much consideration of others           Much consideration of self

 

Seeking God’s in all things           Seeking men’s pleasure in all things

 

Yearning for spiritual things in the heart           Coveting earthly things in the heart

 

Speaking words that edify others           Speaking words that criticise others

 

Happy to witness for Christ           No power to witness

 

Cheerful to give to God’s work           Stingy and unwilling to give

 

Rejoicing in other’s good success           Jealous of others’ good success

 

A helping hand to those in trouble           Nonchalant at other’s misfortune

 

Willing to forgive others           Not willing to forgive others

 

Character first           Clothing first

 

Happy to keep close to devout Christians           Happy in the company of worldly friends

 

Happy to hear faithful admonitions           Happy to hear words of flattery

 

Eagerly hoping for the Lord’s return           No thought of things touching on the Lord’s return

 

 

The shaded boxes gives a visual aid to the state of our spiritual life, our spiritual temperature. Are we on fire for the Lord and are we stone cold?

Are we spiritually healthy? Can we with confidence say, “ Come, Lord Jesus, Come”

 

Into the Depths of Living Water

my new book

Flyer_LivingWater

Recommended Books on Bioethics – an annotated list

This is my personal annotated list

Bioethics-General

Beauchamp, T. and J. Childress (2009). Principles of Biomedical Ethics. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Tom Beaucamp is from the Kennedy of Ethics and Department of Philosophy, Georgetown University, Washington D.C. and James Childress, Department of religious Studies of the University of Virginia. This book is essential reading for students of bioethics in many universities. It is ‘supposedly secular’ in that it draws its foundational principles of moral norms from the philosophies of utilitarianism, Kantianism, rights theory and communitarianism. The principles of biomedical ethics are distilled into four principles:

(1) Respect for Autonomy

(2) Nonmaleficence

(3) Beneficence

(4) Justice.

They recognised that there are two way to do biomedical ethics. One is using top-down models (theory and application) and the other is bottom-up models (cases and analogy). They suggest an integrated model using reflective equilibrium.

 

Elliot, John., Ho, Calvin., and Lim, Sylvia. (eds.) (2010). Bioethics in Singapore: The Ethical Microcosm. Singapore, World Scientific.

This book featured different chapters by various members who were involved in the Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) which was established to establish a framework and guide for bioethical research following the launch of the Biomedical Sciences Initiative by the Singapore Government. It documents the ‘institutionalisation of biomedical research ethics’ in Singapore. Bioethics and politics makes strange bed fellows.

 

Kuhse, H. and P. Singer, Eds. (2001). A Companion to Bioethics. Blackwell Companions to Philosophy. Oxford, Blackwell Publishing.

Kuhse, H. and P. Singer, Eds. (2006). Bioethics: An Anthology. Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies. Oxford, Blackwell Publishing.

Helga Kuhse was the Director of the Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University and Peter Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University. Peter Singer is a man with ‘a dangerous mind’ which is what a television documentary on him and his work was entitled. I would like to meet him. I have never met anyone with a ‘dangerous mind.’ Most people I have met have ‘harmless minds.’ The 81 contributors which include individuals and organisations are mainly philosophers, ethicists, and counsellors. I am only able to identify one doctor and one medical organisation (American Medical Association). The articles are written from a distinctly non-Judaeo-Christian viewpoint and offer an interesting contrast to the following book, On Moral Medicine. Many articles have raised many points that Christian theologians have yet to identify, let alone address them.

 

Lammers, S. E. and A. Verley (1998). On Moral Medicine: Theological Perspectives in Medical Ethics. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

This massive tome of 1004 pages is a collection of essays written by Christian theologians and philosophers concerning the issues of biomedical ethics. This is an excellent selection with contributions from leading bioethicists for the last 30 years. Bioethics is a new science. The writing is mixed as some wrote as theologians and philosophers who are Christians while few wrote as Christians who are theologians and philosophers. What is surprising is the absence of medical doctors writing. One would have thought that Christian medical doctors will have more to contribute in this area. There is also a noticeable absence of Orthodox theologians and philosophers’ contribution. It is still a good book to give a broad Christian perspective on biomedical ethics.

 

Lovin, R. W. (2000). Christian Ethics: An Essential Guide. Nashville, TN, Abingdon Press.

Robin Lovin is Dean of Perkins School of Theology, Southern Baptist University in Dallas, Texas. This is a short and concise book on Christian ethics. It is a useful introductory text because Lovin shows from the Scripture and church history how the principles of Christian ethics are being developed as it interacts with the times and culture of each age. Christian ethic is a living developing discipline as it is being called upon by Christians to face new issues produced by science, technology and culture in every era.

 

Majeed, A. B. A., Ed. (2002). Bioethics: Ethics in the Biotechnology Century. Kuala Lumpur, Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia.

The contributors to this book offer ideas and perspectives on the rise and challenges of biotechnology in the 21st century. The contributors include philosophers, ethicists, scientists, doctors, religious scholars and policy makers from Malaysia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Philippines, and Indonesia.

 

Meilaender, G. (1996, 2005). Bioethics: A Prime for Christians. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Gilbert Meilander is the Phyllis and Richard Dussenberg Professor of Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University in Indiana and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics. The first edition of this book (1996) was chosen by World magazine as one of the top 100 books of the twentieth century. Where Lovin’s book was on the principles of Christian bioethics, Meileander’s book focused on issues of biomedical ethics. He writes on procreation versus reproduction, abortion, genetic advance, prenatal screening, suicide and euthanasia, refusing treatment, organ donations and human experimentation. As in theology and applied theology (how theology is to be lived out in daily lives, not in the ivory towers of the academia), there is bioethics and applied bioethics. Meilander is dealing with applied bioethics. Things are often different in conceptualisation, and in what happens in the daily life of Christians living in a fallen world. As Martin Luther once commented on theology, theology is living out our troubles and sinfulness in our daily lives (my paraphrase). Meilander has expanded our understanding of bioethics but my personal opinion is that he was too dogmatic in too many things. Many things are so not black and white in our daily lives.

 

 

Pence, G. E. (2008). Classic Cases in Medical Ethics: accounts of the cases and issues that define medical ethics. New York, McGraw-Hill.

Professor Pence is the professor of Philosophy, School of Medicine and Department of Philosophy, University of Alabama at Birmingham, United States of America. This is an excellent book because it documents the various cases that produced the court decisions that are affecting biomedical ethics today in the United States. Written in an easy non academic style, it nevertheless give a background to the who, why and what to the various thinking on death and dying, beginnings of human life, ethical theory, research, and individual versus public good.

 

Shelly, J. A. (1980). Dilemma: A Nurse’s Guide for Making Ethical Decisions. Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press.

Judith Allen Shelly was a nurse and was with the Nurses Christian Fellowship. In this book, she outlines a step-by-step Christian decision making process that is very useful.

 

Singapore, National Council of Churches (2002). A Christian Response to the Life Sciences. Singapore, Genesis Books.

Bishop Dr Robert Solomon was asked by the National Council of Churches of Singapore to form a Life Sciences Study Group to study the rapid development of life sciences in 2000. There were 14 members in the Study Group; comprising of doctors, scientists, theologians, ethicists and pastors. The Study Group identified three areas of study:

(1) the human genome project

(2) cloning and stem cell

(3) genetically modifed food

This book is good reading with contributions from members of the Study Group (Dr Roland Chia, Rev Dr Tom Harvey, Dr Mark Chan, Rev Dr Daniel Koh, Dr Anthony Ang, Prof Kon Oi Lian and Dr Soong Tuck Wah). It shows a high level of scholarship and engagement with current issues. However IMHO there should be a more contextualised approach. I am interested to know what Singaporeans Christians will do.

 

 

Philosophy

MacIntyre, A. (1998). A Short History of Ethics. Abingdon, Oxon, Routledge.

It will be difficult to understand bioethics if one does not have any idea about the development of ethics. Bioethics is a new branch of ethics, barely thirty years old. It is also known as applied ethics to differentiate it from the theological ethics. In this book, which is highly recommended, MacIntyre has managed to condense the often dense history of ethics into one small volume (only 264 pages).

 

Singer, P. (1994). Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of our Traditional Ethics. New York, St. Martin’s Griffin.

This book, together with his earlier Practical Ethics is his best works. Here Singer outlines his consequentialist theories about human life and death. His theories stand only if one is a true atheist and a fully detached human person living outside of human society.

 

Preece, G., Ed. (2002). Rethinking Peter Singer: A Christian Critique. Downers Groove, IL, InterVarsity Press.

Four fellow Australians of Peter Singer set out to critique his theories and work. They are Gordon Preece, director of the Centre for Applied Christian Ethics, Ridley College in Australia; Graham Cole, principal of Ridley College and teaches theology and ethics; Lindsay Wilson, vice principal of Ridley College and has degrees in law and Old Testament studies; and Andrew Sloane is a medical doctor and teaches Old Testament, theology and ethics at Ridley College. They claim to be the first group of Christians to publicly critique Peter Singer’s theories. Looking from a Christian perspective, I agree fully with their critique on Singer’s views on abortion, animal experimentation, euthanasia, allocation of healthcare resources and Christianity. Peter Singer is a non-practicing Jew and an atheist. However I am uncomfortable in the way these Christians do their critique. Peter Singer was liken to Herod, killer of children in the New Testament. And they question why Singer did not euthanize his mother when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Along the way, their critique of Peter Singer has become personal attacks and lack grace. The greatest lesson I learned form this book is how to be graceful with people who holds different viewpoints from me.

 

Kuhse, H., Ed. (2002). Peter Singer: Unsanctifying Human Life, Essays on Ethics. Oxford, Blackwell Publishing.

Peter Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp professor of bioethics at the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University. Helga Kuhse is Honorary Research Fellow at Monash University and Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Peter Singer is regarded as one of the world’s most famous or infamous philosophers with huge followings of people who loved his teachings or hated them. He advocates animal rights, infanticide, euthanasia, fair allocation of scarce healthcare resources, embryo experimentation, environmental responsibilities, and reflections on how we should live. This book is a collection some of Singer’s best and most challenging articles from 1971-2002. As the man is a prolific writer and speaker, I find it helpful to have some of his more diverse work in one volume.

 

 

Theology

 

Rodnick, P. A. (2007). Person, Grace, and God. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans.

This is a book that need to be slowly chewed, meditate upon and digested. Philip Rolnick is professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota. This is not an easy book to read but a great book to understand. Rolnick takes on the tremendous task of investigating the concept of personhood. Rolnick started his investigation from the etymological and historical development of the concept of personhood. Then he takes on the challenges to the concept of personhood from neo-Darwinism, polemical deconstruction and from the critical stance. He concludes “(u)ltimately, to be a human person means that the totality of who we are is open-textured to the presence and power of God.”

This is a remarkable work of scholarship of a theologian and philosopher whose methodical use of exegesis and analysis gives us a good idea of the concept of what it means to be a person.

 

Lazareth, W. H., Ed. (2004). Persons in Community: Theological Voices from the Pastorate. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

While Philip Rolnick in Person, Grace and God deals with the theological and philosophical concept of personhood, this book deals with the pastoral aspects of persons. Its main thesis is that persons can only be understood in community. This community is God’s people who are faithful stewards and prudent managers of the world. William Lazareth, the editor is the Jerald C. Brauer Distinguished Professor of Lutheran Studies at Carthage College, Kenosha in Wisconsin. He is also a program associate of the Pastor-Theologian Program at the Center of Theological Inquiry. This program is supported by an endowment by the Lilly Foundation. The program is set up because some Christians have perceived that there is a separation of theology and the church. “A significant part of the current crisis in the church is the hiatus between academic theology as an intellectual discipline and ecclesial theology as a confessional stance” notes Wallace M. Aston, Jr. the director of the Center of theological Inquiry (p.ix). The Pastor-Theologian Program “would seek to focus attention on the ordained ministry as a theological vocation and on the church as a theological community’ (p.xiii). Sixty pastors were involved in the program and discussion. Twenty of these contributed articles to this volume. The articles are easy to read and give a significant pastoral perspective on many of the issues dealing with personhood. It is a ground up theological investigation on what it means to be human.

 

Waters, B. and R. Cole-Turner (2003). God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning. Washington D.C., Georgetown University Press.

Brent Waters is director of the center for Ethics and Values and assistant professor of Christian Social Ethics at Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Ronald Cole-Turner is the H. Parker Sharp Professor of theology and ethics at Pittsburgh Theological seminary and an ordained minister in the united Church of Christ. These two collected and edited various denominational positional statements on embryonic cell research. These statements included those from the Pontifical Academy for Life, The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, United Methodist Church, Southern Baptist Convention, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church (USA), Union of the Orthodox Congregations of America and Rabbinical Council of America and The President’s Council on Bioethics. With statements from such august committees, one will expect a consensus among Christians and Jews about stem cell research and cloning. Unfortunately, what came out is not a symphony but a confusing bubble of voices. While most feel that embryonic stem cell research should not be allowed, very few statements gave convincing evidence for this conclusion. Most appeal to emotions and a sort of pseudo-social theology that involves imputing more into the Bible that what the Bible actually says. One gets the impression that the various denomination study committees are more political and socio-cultural bound than theological.

 

Cahill, L. S., Ed. (2005). Genetics, theology, and Ethics. New York, The Crossroad Publishing Company.

This book represents the findings of a group of Catholic theologians and bioethicists from America, Europe and the developing countries who met annually for five years (1996-2001) to study the questions of “Genetics, Theology, and Ethics.” A highly readable book, it represents the interactions of Catholic theology and contemporary science.

 

Hauerwas, S. (1994). God, Medicine and Suffering. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Stanley Hauerwas, 1990, 1994 , God, Medicine, and Suffering, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans. First published in 1990 as Naming the Silences: God, medicine and the Problem of Pain. Stanley Hauerwas is professor of theological ethics at Duke Divinity School, Durham, North Carolina. In this book which has become a classic, Hauerwas engaged the question of suffering. Drawing from stories of sick and dying children to clarify his discussion of theological issues, Hauerwas shows that medicine is not the answer to the silence cry of suffering and pain. Instead he shows that a God and his caring community “can give a voice to that pain in a manner that at least gives us a way to go on.”

 

Abortion

Gorman, M. J. (1982). Abortion and the Early Church: Christian, Jewish and Pagan attitudes in the Greco-Roman World. Downers Groove, IL, InterVarsity Press.

Gorman did an interesting study of how Christians, Jews and the Greco-Roman world viewed abortion in the first four hundred years of church history. Abortion was a common practice in the Greco-Roman world; the fetus was not regarded as human and hence not murder. The Jewish community also allowed abortion as the fetus were not considered human until he/she was born. The early Christians however held a consistent stand against abortion. Gorman believed that while greatly influenced by Greek philosophy, the church nevertheless heeled Jesus’ teaching in loving their neighbours and the unborn fetus were regarded as a neighbour. The church fathers such as Tertullian, Augustine, Basil the Great, Jerome and Ambrose were all against abortion.

Brown, H. O. J. (1977). Death before Birth. New York, Thomas Nelson Inc, Publishers.

Harold Brown was professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He was one of the few Christians who sounded the alarm and called attention to the increasing rate of abortion in the United States. I remember reading this book and the impact it has on me. It must have been horrifying to Professor Brown to know that in the years to come since his book, abortion was legalised and has become a right in his country. And millions have died before birth.

 

Hoffmeier, J. K., Ed. (1987). Abortion: A Christian Understanding and Response. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Book House.

James Hoffmeier who teaches the Old Testament at Wheaton College has collected an interesting mix of articles on abortion. There is a section on historical, biblical and theological aspects such as “abortion in the ancient near east,” “abortion and the Old Testament law,” another on ethical aspect, and one on practical concerns.

The section on practical concerns is good with articles on psychological consequences of abortion, crisis-pregnancy ministry and after abortion (“What does a Christian-especially a pastor- say to someone who has had an abortion?).

 

 

Reproductive Issues

Hui, E. C. (2002). At the Beginning of Life: Dilemmas in Theological Bioethics. Downes Groove, IL, InterVarsity Press.

Edwin C. Hui is professor of biomedical ethics and Christianity and Chinese culture at Regent College, Vancouver and adjunct professor of philosophy and religious studies at Peking, Fudan and Sichuen Universities. Hui’s original training was as a medical doctor. Hui approach to theological bioethics was through the Christian understanding of personhood and how that applies to the beginning of human life dilemmas.

George, R. P. and C. Tollefsen (2008). Embryo: A Defence of Human Life. New York, Doubleday.

Robert George is Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics. Christopher Tollefsen is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. Questions about abortion and stem-cell research have created seemingly unbridgeable gaps between Americans. Should faith-based views be considered when deciding public policy? Using up-to-date research, George and Tollefsen show that embryos are humans beings from conception; and argue against “moral dualism” and the utilitarian worldview that places society’s “greater good” above the life of the fetus. This books differs from others in the sense that the authors argue from the perspective of public policy making in the United States. They argued against embryonic stem cell research and remind the public that the state has an “ethical and moral obligation to protect embryonic human beings in just the same manner that it protects every other human beings…” This is an irony when there is a call by some Americans for the separation of church and state. However, it seems that when it suits some people’s purposes, the state should fight for their causes. The King in the musical The King and I would throw his hands up in despair, “It’s a puzzlement!” I agree with you, dear king.

 

Euthanasia

Gula, R. M. (1994). Euthanasia: Moral and Pastoral Perspectives. Mahwah, NJ, Paulist Press.

Richard M. Gula, S.S. is professor of moral theology at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, California. He gave the Catholic tradition’s reasoning and motivations for opposing physician-assisted suicide. It is interesting to read their well reasoned objections. In Declaration on Euthanasia issued by Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 26, 1980, there is a section on suffering. “According to Christian teaching, however, suffering especially suffering during the last moments of life, has a special place in God’s saving plan; it is in fact a sharing in Christ’s passion and a union with the redeeming sacrifice which he offered in obedience to the Father’s will.” Gula outlines his pastoral response as “a call for the personal virtues of humility, courage, hope, within a community or parish committed to caring, hospitality, and interdependence.”

Chia, Roland. (2009). The Right to Die? A Christian Response to Euthanasia.

Singapore, Genesis Books.

Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College, Singapore. This book is the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) statement in their stand against euthanasia. I am unable to discern how much of it is Roland’s view and which is the consensus statement.

 

Larson, E. J. and D. W. Amundsen (1998). A Different death: Euthanasia and the Christian Tradition. Downers Groove, IL, InterVarsity Press.

Edward Larson is professor of history and law at the University of Georgia. Darrel Amundsen is professor of classics and chair of the department of modern and classical languages at Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington. This is one of the books that influenced my thinking on euthanasia. These two authors did a historical survey of euthanasia or mercy killing from the early church period until today. Since mercy killing is closely associated to suicide, they also included suicide in their survey. I was fascinated to learn that the ancient Greeks and Romans favoured suicide which they think were honourable. The early church however was counter-cultural and was against suicide in any form. It was Christians who started the hospice movement in the last century. Highly recommended.

 

Tang, A. (2005). A Good Day to Die: A Christian Perspective on Mercy Killing. Singapore, Genesis Books.

Euthanasia or mercy killing is an emotive and controversial subject. Tremendous advances in medical sciences and biomechanical technologies have prolonged our lives. Unfortunately, these same knowledge and technologies have prolonged our dying. Many today struggle with the issue of euthanasia or mercy killing, either for themselves or for their loved ones. Alex Tang approaches this issue from different perspectives. He uses examples from patient case histories to illustrate his points. This book will help those who struggle with euthanasia or mercy killing to come to some resolution of death with dignity. God in His sovereignty determines the times of our birth and of our death. If He has chosen that day for us to die, then it is a good day to die. When we bring about our own death, however, the day of dying is not of God’s choosing but of ours. Do we have the right to choose when we die? Do we have the right to determine the way we are to die? And do we have the right to ask someone to kill us?

 

Peck, M. S. (1997). Denial of the Soul: Spiritual and Medical Perspectives on Euthanasia and Morality. London, Simon and Schuster.

Psychiatrist Scott Peck examines the issues of euthanasia and the culture of fear of our mortality. He makes some interesting points which he illustrates from his medical experience. He writes,” While it is not necessarily our lot in this age that we should suffer physically to the end of our endurance, it is still our lot that we should so suffer emotionally. The denial of this fact of life is the central defect of the age.” Death is not just the dead of the physical body. Peck argues that we need to prepare for our deaths emotionally and spiritually. He thinks that euthanasia is not justified. However he pointed out two issues related with the euthanasia debate that need to be resolved: (1) the need for better pain management, and (2) secularism (Americans claim to be religious but are not committed spiritually). Peck provides a different perspective in our dialogue on euthanasia.

 

Humphry, D. (1991, 1996). Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying. New York, Dell Publishing.2nd ed.

Derek Humphry, 1992, Dying with Dignity: Understanding Euthanasia,

Secaucas, NJ: Carol Publishing Group.

Derek Humphry caused a national sensation in the United States when he published Final Exit in which he argues that everyone has a right to die and has a right to ask others to help them to die. Humphry’s personal experience when his first wife, Jean, who was suffering from terminal breast cancer and asked him to help her die affected him deeply. After her death in 1975, he started the National Hemlock Society in 1980 which lobbies for legalisation of euthanasia and a ‘right to die’ movement. Humphry’s second book, Dying with Dignity serves as a companion to Final Exit in which he presented a ‘systematic’ consideration for the right-to-die movement.

Humphry writes a blog, Assisted-Suicide Blog http://www.assistedsuicide.org

 

Koop, C. E. (1976). The Right to Live; The Right to Die. Wheaton, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Dr Koop was surgeon-in-chief at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and professor of paediatric surgery at the University of Pennysylvania. He became famous in 1974 when he and his team successfully separated Siamese twin girls in a pioneering operation. This book was important as Koop looked at the Supreme Court Ruling on abortion and Karen Quinlan from a personal, social, medical, and theological point of view. Though the facts of the cases are dated, his astute observations and predictions on how these two key events will affect our lives are timeless.

 

Blocher, M. (1999). The Right to Die? Caring Alternatives to Euthanasia. Chicago, Moody Press.

Mark B. Blocher is Director for the Center for Biblical Ethics. There are a few approaches to bioethics. In 1982 psychologist Carol Gilligan suggests that women and men approach moral issues differently. This is taken up by feminist thinking (I do not mean it in a negative sense). Women are more emphatic and intuitive which Gilligan call the ‘ethic of care.’ Men on the other other hand, then to follow rules and principles which was named ‘ethic of right and justice.’ However, these approaches are not strictly gender restrictive. Blocher took on the ethic of care in relationship to his work on the dying. However, being a Baptist pastor and bioethicist, he wants to offer more than just what the “death with dignity” movement is offering. “Killing is not caring,” he writes,” It may look compassion…even merciful but it is not.” In the ethic of care, he finds that he can offer more. Blocher suggests that Christians must be proactive in providing alternatives to assisted suicide and euthanasia while offering at least three promises to the terminally ill:

  1. To the best of our ability, we will not allow you to die in pain
  2. We will not allow you to be alone
  3. You will not be a burden to anyone

Caring for the dying need commitment, sacrifice, and personal involvement.

 

Organ Transplant

Lock, M. (2002). Twice dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press.

One of the key debates in organ transplantation is the definition of death. The mostly held definition is the Harvard definition which is brain dead- no EEG, no brain stem activity. There is a need for organs for transplantation and the medical profession is tinkering with the definition of death so as to get more viable organs for transplantation. The definition of death has been modified to either brain dead or cardiac death. Cardiac death occurs if there is proof that when a heart stops, it is irreversible and unlike to resume beating again. The National Institute of Medicine suggests 5 minutes but hospitals have been reducing the time to 2 minutes and even 90 seconds. This means that a potential organ donor is pronounced dead when he or her heart stops for 90 seconds and is prepared for organ harvesting. In 90 seconds, the brain will still be alive. In some hospitals, such patients are given large dose of morphine in case the potential donor feels ‘pain’. This is a funny argument because if someone feels pain, that person must still be alive. I suspect the reason is that if allowing the heart to stop doesn’t cause brain death, the morphine will, thus sparing the doctors, hospital, and ethics committees the embarrassment of being sued because the heart restarts during organ harvesting.  Margaret Lock did a good job of documenting the shifting definition of death. The interesting title is because an organ donor may die twice. His or her heart stops (cardiac death), then the body is kept living by a machine, the heart restarted and then allowed to stop when the organ harvesting has been done. This is a very thought provoking and frightening book about organs transplantation.

 

Chia, Roland. (2009). The Ethics of Human Organ Trading. Singapore,

Genesis Books.

This is the National Council of Churches Singapore (NCCS) statement of their stand against organ trading written by Roland.

 

Genetics

Peters, T. (2007). The Stem Cell Debate. Minneapolis, MI, Fortress Press.

Ted Peters teaches systematic theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He is an associate of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences and is the co-editor of the center’s journal Theology and Science. Peters gives a good overview of the stem cell debate by framing the discussion into three frameworks:

(1) The embryo protection framework. The moral status of the ex vivo embryo (not implanted) and the principle of non-maleficience are central

(2) The nature protection framework. The fear that we may cross the line to manipulate genetics as in ‘playing God’

(3) The medical benefits framework. Beneficience that puts relief of human suffering as the core of its reasoning

It is out of these three frameworks that a fourth will arise-The research standards framework which will essentially be government policies informed by the other three frameworks.

 

Wilmut, I., K. Campbell, et al. (2000). The Second creation: Dolly and the Age of Biological Control. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

Ian Wilmut was with Roslin Institute in Scotland when he successfully cloned Dolly. I believe he is working in Biopolis in Singapore now; nope he left. Keith Campbell is a cell biologist and embryologist with the University of Nottingham. Colin Tudge is a science writer. The first part of the book was an account of their work with cloning Dolly from the cell of an adult sheep in 1996. The second part was interesting as they reflected on their breakthrough in genetic engineering, genomics, and cloning using adult cells. They believed there will be tremendous ramification from their experiments and predict great changes in biological experimentation. Biology will the the next area of scientific development. It was interesting that they entitled their book, The Second Creation. An interesting insight into how scientists work, think and behave.

Tang, A. (2006). Live and Let Live: A Christian Perspective on Biotechnology. Petaling Jaya, Kairos Research Centre Sdn Bhd.

This is the age of cutting edge biotechnology. With the completion of the mapping of the human genome in 2000, we are poised for a great leap in life-changing biotechnological discoveries and innovations. The Bible does not give specific answers to these questions. Using biblical principles, this book seeks to help Christians to understand and be informed about these issues. Some of these questions may sound like science fiction. We have seen the way the silicon revolution of computers; mobile phones and the Internet have changed our lives within a decade. The biotechnology revolution has already begun. We are just beginning to experience its effect. We are living in ‘interesting times’.

 

Sociology

Tada, J. E. and N. M. d. D. Cameron (2006). How to be a Christian in a Brave New World. Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan.

Joni is a quadriplegic who has spent three decades advocating for the disability community. Nigel M. de Cameron is research professor of bioethics at the Illinois Institute of Technology and president of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future. The book is targeted at the general informed reading public and deals with human cloning, designer babies, redefining human nature and human harvesting. Though they do not offer new arguments, the recommended reading list and the Internet links are worth looking at.

Peters, T. (1996). For the Love of Children: Genetic Technology and the Future of the Family. Louisville, KN, Westminster John Knox Press.

Ted Peters is professor of systematic theology at pacific Lutheran Seminary. His writing is very precise and logical. In this book he takes on the challenge of looking at biotechnology and molecular genetics from the children’s viewpoint. This is a unique approach and Peters’ thesis is that all children have claims on their parents and in turn their families. This places the responsibility of guarding the morality and placing boundaries on genetic research and application on the parents and indirectly on society and the church. He proposes an ethic “for the love of children.”

Fukuyama, F. (2002). Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. London, Profile Books.

Francis Fukuyama is Bernard L Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at the Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, John Hopkins University. A social scientist, Fukuyama published The End of History and the Last Man in 1989 which which he proclaimed that due to the exhaustion of alternatives to liberal democracy, history as we know it has come to an end. Ten years later and we are still here; he revised his theories to that history has not ended yet because we have not reached the end of science. Fukuyama asks an important question: How does the ability to modify human nature affect liberal democracy? Fukuyama examines how the changing understanding of human nature -from Plato and Aristotle to the present- has affected society. Then he extrapolates into the future on how the consequences of genetic manipulation will affect society especially liberal democracy. The foundation of liberal democracy is based on the concept that all humans are created equal.

 

A Christ Centered Doctor: The Call to be a Holy Testimony

 

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As Christian doctors, we have excellent opportunities to share about our Lord Jesus Christ. Today’s devotional verses stated ‘in work or deed’. Yes, we are to share about Jesus in words if circumstances allow, being mindful about professionalism. In deed always, as we serve our patients in the way of love. The key to the verses is on the ‘you’ rather than on what you say or do. Our life and character is the best testimony about our Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to be witnesses for the expansion of the Kingdom of God. A witness is one who speaks or reveals what she has seen and experienced. Who we are, not just what we do that reveals Christ. It is important that we are credible and reliable witnesses, bearing the fruit of the Spirit. The testimony of our witness is to be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal.5:22-23).

Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

In addition to our characters, our attitude counts. Our attitude should be one of gratitude. Being gratefully and always giving thanks changes us in profound ways. Gratitude is a choice. Like the metaphor of seeing a glass half full or half empty, gratitude is choosing to see the positive in all things, even when everything has fallen apart. Why? This is because our God is a sovereign God. He is in control. As doctors, we have been trained to believe that we are in control of our patient care. In reality as we discovered later, that is a delusion; that we are in control. Our treatment protocols are mere statistical probabilities that the treatment will work. In spite of our large armament of medicines and latest high tech-equipment, our patients often do not respond as we expected. It is important that we realize that healing comes from the Lord. We treat our patients and prays that it works. And we are grateful that most of the time it does.

Prayer: Lord, let us be your witness through our character and attitude. Amen

A Christ Centered Doctor: The Call to a Holy Purpose

 

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As doctors, there are good days and bad days. Good days are when everything goes well; patients are recovering, the waiting room is not overcrowded, the medical team worked well together, nobody died, and you have time to enjoy your second cup of coffee. When patients crashed, treatment protocols failed, your clinic outpatients are overflowing into the corridors, a few ire patients’ relatives are waiting to rant on you, and that is before you have your coffee yet; these are bad days. We all have our share of good and bad days. We are called to walk in the ‘way of love’. This is easy on good days but very challenging on bad ones. So what does this way of love entails for us doctors? What it means is that we do the best we can, all we can within our limitations, and leave the rest up to God.

Ephesians 5:1–2 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The best we can for our patients is when we are focused on them as persons instead of problems. We see our patients holistically; as persons precious in the eyes of God. We treat the whole person, not just the dysfunctional part. And we do it with love, the same love we show to our families. We act in love. Not all patients respond to our loving acts. Some patients are incorrigible and unlovable. Yet, we are called to act in the way of love.

We are called to love because of God’s example. Jesus Christ, God incarnate faced similar good and bad days like us. The Great Physician healed ten persons with leprosy but only one came back to thank him (Luke 17:11-19). He was mobbed in the marketplace and a woman trying to steal his healing by touching him- she was healed. (Mark 5:25–34, Matthew 9:20–22, Luke 8:43–48). Jesus’ life is a prime example of an offering his life as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. And we are called to do the same.

 

Prayer:

Dear God, help us to walk in the way of love for our patients’ and your sake.

Amen

Those who say Eugene Peterson was motivated by money or reputation know neither the man nor his work.

“It is probably for the best that he is refusing all further interviews because, for the good of the church he loves, it is important that his legacy remains intact. That some people were even asking “can we still read him?”; or that others were suggesting that there should be some doubt about this, is pathetic and portrays an ignorance of church history and the reality that all of our heroes are jars of clay. In a wonderful blog that is valuable for its insights into wider issues, not just this particular one, Scott Sauls writes that when we drain away the bathwater of this interview, the baby (his writings and insights) still has a beautiful face.”

citizenofnomeancity

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When a religious news site carried an interview with Eugene Peterson in which he was pushed on his views on homosexuality and during which he said that under some circumstances he might officiate at a same-sex wedding, Christian cyberspace went into overdrive.

I stayed quiet because, as a friend, I wanted to process the implications of such a statement and perhaps have the chance to contact him directly; but mainly because, knowing the man and trying to discern the context of the original interview, I fully expected a clarification or retraction to follow, as indeed it did.

Predictably, after his retraction, certain groups and individuals were as quick to prejudge his motives and insult him, as other people had been to denounce and condemn him a few days previously. But far and away the most ludicrous accusation is that Peterson was motivated by the threat of Christian publishers to…

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A Christ Centered Doctor: The Call to a Holy Life

 

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Romans 12:1–2 (NIV)

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

Our vocation or call to a holy life is the same as the call to be a doctor. Surprisingly, many of us think of this as separate callings. Our struggles to be either a Christian first and doctor second or vice versa does not make sense if we understand it as the same calling. We are called to holy living which in our case involves functioning as a medical doctor. Holy living is a life of worship. The Hebrew word for worship also means work. The biblical understanding of work is that work is worship. Thus serving as a doctor is living a holy life of worship. This is what Paul meant when he asked us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. A holy life of work/worship involves sacrifices. The long and sleepless night calls, difficult and stressful clinic problems, and giving up a normal lifestyle are expected sacrifices due to the nature of our work as doctors. However, these sacrifices are also acceptable to God as offerings. Thus the sacrifices we make to do our work contributes to our living a holy life.

These sacrifices by itself are meaningless unless it is accompanied by ‘be transformed by the renewing of our minds’ as Paul termed it. This renewal of our minds is the development of a new mindset that sees our whole life (which includes our work and sacrifices) as offering to the Lord and being involved with him as agents of his for the expansion of the Kingdom of God which is his perfect will. As doctors, we are as much involved in Kingdom work as pastors or missionaries. It is helpful to discern our own life story as doctors as part of the greater meta-narrative of the Christian Story. We are who we are for a reason. And that reason is to live a holy life.

 

Prayer

Lord, help us to be worthy of our calling to live a holy life.

Amen

My Writing Life

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This is the Afterword in my forthcoming book, Into the Depths of Living Water.

Afterword—Meditation on Writing

The book you are holding is the latest at trying to share the gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ in a different format. I hope you have enjoyed it and in some ways be edified by it.

Writing is hard and gruelling work. It is incubated amidst blood, sweat, and tears.  No, these aren’t the ink I write with. I just want to express that it not just physically challenging, but mentally too.  The thought of all the work frightens me, as it involves transferring all those ideas that I carry with me in my mind, into words. Ideas brew and form, and run ahead of writing—writing about them is akin to playing ‘catch up’. Such imagery is enough to make me feel breathless. Writing, especially in an authentic voice, makes me exceptionally vulnerable, as my inner thoughts and aspirations are made bare to the world. Such glaring spotlight is not easy on me—an extreme introvert.

So why write? Putting all things on a balance, I sense that a net effect is at work, to pull me towards writing as the means to share my ideas with a wider audience. I hold dear a vision to nurture disciples of Jesus Christ who possess informed minds, hearts on fire, and are contemplative in actions. This process of orthodoxy, orthopathy, and orthopraxis are the foundations of my writing. The process of becoming like Jesus Christ is necessarily a holistic one, as we strive to live out the faith in everyday situations, in the various roles we play in community life. In attempting to address such needs, the scope of my interest and writing inevitably takes on a multi-faceted approach. It draws upon insights from theology, biblical studies, spiritualities, spiritual formation, spiritual direction, biomedical ethics, culture and the arts (poetry, literature etc.), science and medicine, popular culture (movies, computer games etc.), parenting and Christian living. At first blush, these seem very disconnected ideas but all of these can be mined for lessons on spiritual formation—the common theme that undergirds my writing.

My editor, Shu Phay, encouraged me to share something about my writing journey. Initially. I was very reluctant because my journey is not over yet. I believe I have still a number of books inside me to be written.  However, after mulling it over during a retreat, I have decided to share a part of that journey that God has unveiled thus far.  Thinking about why I write what I write humbles me—I must aim, at all times, to be a good messenger and steward of knowledge.   And yes, I must keep the interest going, to explore and use the most suitable media or technology to communicate with you, dear readers.

For readers who may want to get to know me through my writings, please read on. There could be common interests, you and I, and I welcome exchanges and collaboration.

Random Musings from a Doctor’s Chair (2005); Armour Publishing, Singapore

This is a collection of articles where I experimented with different approaches of writing to connect with my readers. I wrote from the first, second, and third persons on issues that concern me as a Christian doctor, such as depression, suicide, euthanasia and cloning.

A Good Day to Die: A Christian Perspective on Mercy Killing (2005); Armour Publishing, Singapore

This book is a Christian response to controversial and emotive issues of euthanasia and end-of-life concerns.  I gave my response from the lens, as well as from the ‘heart’ of a medical doctor. I shared some perspectives to guide Christians to think about this: We live well. Shouldn’t we also die well, with dignity and minimum pain and completely at peace with life’s rhythm and His will?

Live and Let Live: A Christian Response on Biotechnology (2006); Kairos Research Centre, Kuala Lumpur

Here, I injected insights and knowledge from my medical career and theology education to make sense of scientific processes relating to the termination, design and creation of life—abortion, stem cell research, cloning, and transhumanism. I got started on this book after a period of observation about the Church’s attitude to technology and new advances. It seemed to me that there is a general skepticism on new technology, and I ponder if the rejection is a gut reaction— a crippling fear of the unknown blocking attempts to view it rationally and with theological basis. This book is an attempt to fill the gap at a time when response papers were typically written by systematic theologians, rather than Christian ethicists or medical practitioners.

This is a work in progress and the book, admittedly, is a bit dated. One day, I shall get my lazybones to update it!

Spiritual Formation on the Run: Meditations to Build a Busy Life (2009); Armour Publishing, Singapore

Travelling further on my journey in spiritual formation and transformation, I began to realise that many Christians shun the active, intentional formative processes of their faith communities because they are too busy. Somehow, there is an entrenched view that we can only grow spiritually if we are ‘unbusy’. My thoughts were on busy people as I wrote this—hence the short chapters with a key takeaway in each, to be ‘consumed’ on the go. It is my conviction that the Holy Spirit can cause spiritual formation and transformation in very busy people—people who are always on the run.

Tending the Seedbeds: Educational Perspectives on Theological Education in Asia (2010); Asia Theological Association, Philippines

I contributed a chapter on problem-based learning (PBL) in theological institutions. When researching and writing this, I discovered a valuable area—how people learn—and have not stopped thinking about this since, the theory and applications to the Church. A significant milestone in my journey of writing and discovery.

 

Tales from the Monastery: Spiritual Formation the Asian Way (2012); Armour Publishing, Singapore

Alex Tang (Author), Hai Seng Lim (Illustrator)

Jesus told parables. Parables are stories that have multiple layers of meanings. Stories are a powerful media of communication, cutting through our filters and worldviews. This book represents an attempt to communicate biblical truths through stories. Set in the fictitious Sow Lin Monastery headed by Abba Ah Beng, the book follows a group of mischievous disciple monks (and one girl) on their life adventures (misadventures too) musings, and ‘learning moments’. The book was delightfully illustrated (with cartoons) by Han Seng Lim.  I am grateful that many people, both young and old are blessed by it. It is presently in its fourth printing.

Till We are Fully Formed: Christian Spiritual Formation Paradigms in the English-speaking Presbyterian Churches in Malaysia (2014); Malaysia Bible Seminary, Malaysia

This is an academic tome based on my PhD work on spiritual formation. It provided the opportunity to formalise and disseminate my ideas about learning, spiritualities, spiritual formation and transformation, and discipleship in Christian faith communities.

 

Conversations with my Granddaughter (2014); Armour Publishing, Singapore

Kids are at the heart of what I do; parenting and grandparenting are issues close to my heart. I thought that the idea of a series of letters to my granddaughter would be a great medium to convey parenting advice in a post-modern age. It has proven to be very popular. A companion volume on letters to my grandson is being written.

 

A People Apart (2016); Armour Publishing, Singapore

This is a collection of meditations on 1 Chronicles for Asian Notes, originally published by the Scripture Union. I thought it is useful for people, especially busy people, to have access to the materials in a handy, compact booklet.

Meditations in Autumn (2015); Meditation in Summer (2016); Kairos Spiritual Formation, Kuala Lumpur

I have in recent years begun to develop photography as a spiritual discipline, to train the mind and eyes to focus in looking and seeing, and in the process, learn to perceive the world differently. I want to be closer to the Creator by appreciating the beauty of his creation. I have noticed lately that people take in information better if it’s presented visually or as short sound bytes. Thus birthed an idea to develop a four-part series, each a photobook devotional.  The first two books contain photos taken in autumn in Kyoto, Japan and summer in Alaska respectively.

 

Soli Deo Gloria