Life : In One Paragraph

I consider myself – at present – a progressive evangelical. Labels like Post-Evangelical or Emergent Christian, I don’t mind either. Though they are merely labels – which, despite their limitations, can be helpful in describing one’s beliefs and worldview. My past? God transformed my life when I was 16-17 years old and since then I’ve had an interesting journey – and one which I’m sure will continue such that what I say of myself and my interests now may not be the same in future. Having experienced early on the positives and negatives of both the Charismatic and non-Charismatic (Reformed/Calvinistic) worlds of Christianity, I had an ambition (for the first 5 to 6 years – till about end 2001) to bring together the best of both worlds. I loved theology and I felt both sides of the divide had much to learn from the other. Thus I wanted to pursue my doctorate in theology, become a theological college lecturer and bring about a balance of both Word and Spirit in the Christian world. Well, that path obviously didn’t last. While initially only interested in reading theological books, certain influential Reformed Christian authors (e.g. Michael Horton) and magazines (e.g. Modern Reformation) led me to grasping the importance of understanding the world-at-large and not just focusing on my own sub-culture – the Christian world. I started to read books that dealt with sociological (e.g. media), philosophical, educational, economical and political issues and soon I found myself being interested more in the world-at-large and all issues concerning the “secular” world, and started losing interest in my dream to bring together the best of both the charismatic and non-charismatic Christian worlds. Two reasons could be given as to why I started to become discouraged in relation to such a dream, both of which are particularly telling of the struggles I would face as I hop on a different path for my life. The first reason was that I started to realize that people (myself included) are too stuck in their beliefs to change or want to learn from others – even Christians who profess to humility and obedience to God. My understanding of why this is so would be later more greatly enhanced as I encountered what “postmodernism” is all about. The second reason was that my grand ambitions of seeing greater balance come about in the Church was just too idealistic for the world – Christian or not – to look favorably upon. Yes, I am an idealistic person and driven by lots of ideals. And yes, perhaps sometimes I do need to get down to earth and be more realistic. Both these reasons eventually made me let go of that dream. Continuing on with the story, what eventually occurred through my interest in the “secular” world was that I encountered a world of suffering. Of course I knew about suffering and the fallenness of human beings and all before this. And I knew there were passages in the Bible that talked of a Christian’s obligation to help the poor and suffering. But that was in theory and in my head. It never moved me to act. I never felt that as a Christian I needed to do anything for the poor in the third world. But gradually, I started to see things differently – perhaps, very much like Rick Warren. Rick had written the best-selling new book in the world since 2003 (The Purpose Driven Life) and yet despite his great grasp of Scripture and years in ministry (he’s one of the world’s most respected Christian pastors and leaders, even nicknamed “America’s Pastor”), he acknowledged that he missed God’s heart for the poor until God gave him “new eyes” to rexamine Scripture. He said to Christianity Today: “I found those 2,000 verses on the poor. How did I miss that? I went to Bible college, two seminaries, and I got a doctorate. How did I miss God’s compassion for the poor? I was not seeing all the purposes of God.” Similarly, I read widely, was quite well-versed in theology, attended many different Churches and listened to many Christian pastors and preachers. In all this, the emphasis was all about stuff like one’s relationship with God, God’s will, getting closer to God, etc. – mostly about the “spiritual”, very little about the “material/physical”. It was as if one’s relationship with God had nothing to do with poverty and the suffering of others. Such was too “earthly” and the job of a Christian was to evangelize and focus on the “spiritual” and “heavenly”, rather than on the “earthly”. I too had missed it… It’s frightening to know that a Christian of Rick’s stature could have completely missed God’s compassion for the poor. If he could have missed it, then what about most other Christians? So anyway, slowly I started to feel the need to show God’s compassion to the suffering deep in my soul. With “new eyes”, I started to see that the Bible actually talked a lot about the poor and about the Christian’s responsibility to them. From early 2002 till 2005, I had been mainly studying in University (excluding a 4 months stay in Colombia and breaks in Singapore) and this time spent studying about the stuff I’m interested in – International Development, Politics, Economics, Spanish and Latin America – as well as the time away from home (Singapore) has enabled me to broaden my outlook in life and strengthen my interest in International Development – i.e. development of Third World countries. At present, this remains my passion and the path I hope to travel in future. I still consider myself a Christian (of course!) and in fact it’s my faith that motivates me in my interest of wanting to help the poor. I believe that’s what God has called Christians to do – not just evangelize, but also help the poor. My journey so far has resulted in my having a dislike for organizational (and fundamentalist right-wing) Christianity because I find them especially narrow-minded and indifferent to issues which I believe greatly concern the heart of God – like that of poverty and suffering. But I still try to attend church and keep in touch with Christian happenings all around the world. I also have a desire to see Christians adopt a more holistic faith of ministering to both the physical and spiritual needs of people. I am not a perfect, sinless person but I do not fear because God has accepted in me Christ. God is the reason why I live. All things I do – all my interests and passions – stem from the recognition that He loved me in Jesus Christ and that all I hope to do now is love Him back. There are many ways to do that, yet perhaps the most important is through letting Love (God) be known in every aspect of my life, through living Love out. Truth is, I constantly fail. And the world constantly fails. I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. And so I press on…

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8 Comments

  1. ‘There are many ways to do that, yet perhaps the most important is through letting Love (God) be known in every aspect of my life, through living Love out. Truth is, I constantly fail. And the world constantly fails. I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. And so I press on… ‘

    Arrgh…this is so cool. I believe many others inclu myself feel this way. What a great way of penning.

  2. Hello there,

    I like your gentle and respectful way in trying to mitigate the extreme views that members of NCC and CHC tend to have of each other.

    We have one Saviour, one Head, one Jesus Christ, one Way to the Father.
    Why do we Christians, fight and compete with one another, unless we’re unconsciously defending and justifying our beliefs right or wrong – this act in itself should be evidence enough for something not right? But that’s just my view.

    Anywayz, I am learning still.

    Erm, regarding Rick Warren however, I thought he had a view of religious pluralism? I could be mistaken.

    If I can find the link to support my views, I’ll let you know.

    Grace to you! Shalom

  3. Hi Sophie,

    Thanks for your comment. I love both NCC and CHC. As an NCC member, I’m glad that Pastor Prince doesn’t speak out against other churches like many others speak out against NCC. He just focuses on Jesus and preaching Jesus. And I think he’s got the right focus. One can never go wrong if one focuses on Jesus!

    I have heard a lot of bad stuff about Rick Warren. I don’t for one second believe them because I know that many Christians just love criticizing every small little thing they disagree with.

    Cheers!

  4. Hi Idealist,

    Allot of your journey resonates with my own walk, I also have a desire to see church grow out of its narrow minded right wing confines and to see more of His kingdom manifest.

    Sent you an email, could we see if we could meet up to talk wouldl ike to discuss about missions, healing rooms, house church and other common things.

    Regards
    Isaac

  5. > Thus I wanted to pursue my doctorate in theology, become a theological college lecturer and bring about
    > a balance of both Word and Spirit in the Christian world. …
    > Two reasons could be given as to why I started to become discouraged in relation to such a dream…
    > The first reason was that I started to realize that people (myself included) are too stuck in their beliefs to
    > change or want to learn from others …
    > The second reason was that my grand ambitions of seeing greater balance come about in the Church was
    > just too idealistic for the world

    Interestingly, your original goal/passion impacted and influenced at least one person significantly, namely me. It was during your particular “balance of Word and Spirit” phase that my life crossed paths with yours. At the time I was very ignorant of Reformed theology, and had a bad taste in my mouth as regards to most of the Charismaticism that I had seen. I had the unbalanced impression that both camps were majorly focused on minor issues simply because of historical, traditional, and emotional ties. (I say “unbalanced” because, as it turns out, I would still say there was a lot of truth to that impression, but it wasn’t a complete picture.) As a heavily “left-brained” seeker of truth myself, I was extremely skeptical of views that couldn’t be arrived at via (what I would have called) “calm” (i.e. unemotional), rational, analytical exploration. As a 3.5-year old “believer” who to that point had mostly “grown up” in discipleship through university campus ministries in America, I probably couldn’t have named a analytical Christian thinker/author who’d had any influence on me beyond Josh McDowell. That is where you stepped in to (probably unwittingly) trample on my pride by effectively saying, “How can you dismiss such-and-such idea if you haven’t even read such-and-such?” (Again, I think you were more gracious than that, but that is my own rephrasing of your impact on me as I needed to hear it at the time. Incidentally, I still haven’t gotten around to reading NT Wright on justification, as prompted by you during a latter phase of exploration, but I still would like to.) So, on the one hand I think that any theological professor worth his beans (as opposed to pseudo-academics who are too insecure to have a representative variety of perspectives brought out into the light) would be delighted to have you as a doctoral student, and think that you could go on to be an effective lecturer and contributor to the body of scholarly literature. On the other hand, just because I think that you *could* follow such a path successfully, and at least influence some people (like me!) that doesn’t mean I think it would be the best idea. I resonate with many of your other reasons for holding back from taking such a path: the high monetary cost of education (in the arts anyway) seems like it could be money better spent elsewhere, the question of whether the world really needs more academics, etc. In the end, as a PhD holder myself (though not in theology), my encouragement to you would be to affirm that regardless of “credentials” you already ARE clearly gifted by God in areas of logical analysis and discernment of truth. So continue to use those gifts to His glory. Our society says that “the way” for a person with your type of gifts is to go into academia. I say that is wrong. I don’t care if you ever get any “advanced degrees” or not. But I DO care that you continue to use what God has given you to bless others, as, for example, you have done in my life. Reading some of the many comments from others over the years, it seems that this blog is one way that are doing that. So, keep it up. And now, I conclude my “one paragraph” comment on your post ;)!

    1. Hey Zach,,

      Thanks for your words of encouragement and affirmation. I never knew I had an impact upon you. But you definitely have regarding your view of missions which I’ve written about and shared with many friends about.

      The stuff I’ve written here and even in my “About” page is actually not that up to date at this point of time. The past year or two has brought me to a slightly different direction, even though everything in my past that’s written here is still with me of course! I’ll have to update this page one day! But then again, what I’ve been interested in and what has been influencing me is all on my blog.

      Regarding a PhD, a prophet prophesied over me studying for a doctorate or something like that. I have no plans to because of the cost. But I do love studying and teaching and would love the time to focus totally on Him and His Word. But I also have certain specific passions and interests that I like to study and teach on – healing, New Covenant Christianity, grace, etc. And I have a particular passion to see truth applied in my life and the lives of others so that it doesn’t just mean head knowledge. I would totally not be satisfied with studying healing (and formulating and teaching a very good theology of healing) without seeing God’s healing power move through my life and the life of those I teach/disciple.

      Thanks for your comments all over my blog!

  6. I chanced upon your blog while, admittedly, being distracted from my university assignment. I found my way in through the article on FCC. The initial impression was – oh dear, another-disillusioned-with-church-can’tfindahome-howcangodbesocruel,thuseverythingmustberelative-liberal. But of course, that impression gave way to a much deeper resonance within me after your position became apparent. While I wouldn’t say I agree with you (neither have I given much thought to the direction you have charted), the deep resonance with me came about because you are evidently someone who is not liberal, is evangelical (largely), yet was giving the issue honest thought and reflection whilst not abandoning unchanging convictions about sin, God and Man.

    As I read on, I found much, much resonance with myself, even though I am most certainly quite a lot younger than you – 22. I’ve seen other blogs which attempt to be ‘honest’, but greatly disappoint me because much of their understanding is based on human reasoning and not a biblical worldview, or in their desire to be ‘authentic’, forget that as much as Christianity is a journey, the journey makes sense only because of the fixed points along the road, which remain unchanging. I have not read that many articles yet and look forward to seeing more.

    I would say that I am in the trying to bring together the best of both worlds phase now, having been deeply influenced over the course of my life by figures from both charismatic and non-charismatic backgrounds. Whether it is only for a time, like in your case, or not remains to be seen.

  7. “Truth is, I constantly fail. And the world constantly fails. I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. And so I press on…”

    I think you have found the reason to press on – Jesus, the way , the truth and the light. Its just the journey that you have on this earth that is constantly changing. But like being in a soccer game, you can dribble to the left, right, centre, do tricks to get past your opponents, charge at them etc, but if you have your eyes fixed on the goal, which is Jesus, it will be the light that guide you to the one and only direction and destination.

    So yes, press on and stay always in the joy of the Lord! (easier said than done but God is so good, He does show that things can be that easy.)

    -) God bless you.

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