the chc saga

These are some of my random musings on the CHC saga (my own thoughts, which are not representative of the views of any church, family, society or organization that I am a part of):

We now have a legal judgment: A court case is the process by which judgment on the legal issues in a matter is obtained. Here, the role of the court was to determine if the elements constituting Criminal Breach of Trust and/or Falsification of documents were made out. It was not to give an assessment on the theological prowess, leadership ability or spiritual calling of the convicted individuals. If we choose to draw our own conclusions on such matters based on the verdict, that’s our own prerogative, but I don’t think it would be right to say that the judge decided on these.

The legal judgment should be respected: Unless (and I think in this case it’s highly improbable though perhaps not completely impossible) the case gets overturned on appeal, the judgment of 21 Oct has decided on the legal status of the 6 individuals. To me it makes sense that all the elements required to prove the offences have been made out. Perhaps the main point of contention was the presence of dishonesty on the part of the 6, which requires an intention to cause wrongful gain or loss. Under the Penal Code s23, wrongful loss is “loss by unlawful means”. The standard to be applied here is one of the law and not one of morality, insofar as the latter has not been given effect to in our law. So in my mind the judge must surely be right as a matter of law, especially given the way that funds clearly meant for other uses (e.g. the building fund) were channeled for other purposes. The issue of whether these other purposes were right or noble in themselves should not make a difference. I think one of the clearest indications as to what the judge was concerning himself with (i.e. the law) is this sentence: “But no matter how pure the motive or how ingrained the trust in one’s leaders, regardless of the context in which that trust operates, these do not exonerate an accused person from criminal liability if all the elements of an offence are made out.”

They probably could have handled it better: It’s good to know that they apologized to the church. It probably would have been better if the long process today had included an apology for breaking the law, and not just being sorry for what the church had to endure. I feel that an acknowledgment of the judgment, or at least an indication that you respect the judicial system, would not necessarily be at odds with the assertion that they were spiritually/morally justified in doing the relevant acts. The latter is an issue between them and God, whereas the legality of what they did is an issue for the courts. Admittedly, I suppose it would make sense not to do so if any of them are planning to appeal and wish to avoid making an admission as to their legal culpability.

We aren’t any better than them: How many of us have justified our actions on the basis of our religion or even ideological views while harbouring that niggling suspicion at the back of our minds that the grounds we cite don’t actually support what we’re doing? I know I have. We all are fallible, imperfect beings. So while this obviously does not justify what they did in any way, it’s just a good time to remind ourselves that although we may not have been convicted of a crime in a court of law, that doesn’t make any of us saints.

It makes no sense to criticize people for praying for them: I can see no point in criticizing people (whether members of CHC or not) for wanting to pray for or stand with the convicted individuals, insofar as it is possible to do so without calling into question the validity of the legal judgment. Do we call for others to condemn an accused person once he is convicted? Do we rail at the church for wanting to reach out to prisoners, telling it to disassociate itself from such individuals? If the church is called to love the sinner, why should it stop just because the sinner comes from within its leadership? I’m not saying that we should attempt to whitewash what they did: as the prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt in court, what they did is against the law and was committed with the necessary dishonesty. Nor am I saying that you should take someone who has been convicted of CBT in relation to church funds and reinstate them in a position where they would be in charge of those said funds again. All I am suggesting is that it is not wrong to wish good will onto someone who has just been convicted of an offence.

Lessons that I’ve learnt: This case has been a great reminder that no one is above the law, and rightly so. Even if we think that we are acting for the good of our ministry, or for the good of anything else, we should respect the law. If ever faced with a system of laws that seem wrong on principle (which is certainly not the case in Singapore), then perhaps in order to do what is right we would have to go against the law. But I don’t think that necessarily means we evade the law: maybe part of standing up for what we believe in is taking the human punishment that is meted out, recognizing that the reward is in heaven and not on earth. Paul was often imprisoned, and God made use of him whilst he was in prison, but I don’t think he ever tried to escape.

Another thing that I took away from this is that it probably isn’t a great idea to run a church like a company. Perhaps going down the more “conventional” church route of saying “hey look, we’ve got this project that we need a lot of financial support for, could you please donate to it?” would have been a safer alternative. When you rely on complex financial instruments like bonds to effect what is in essence the sponsorship of a project, you have to play by the rules governing them. Yes, the law is a tool, but it is also a heavily regulated tool. It’s all too easy to get lost in the blurry details.

I’m not quite sure why I wrote this. Perhaps in penning down my thoughts, I hoped to crystallise them and figure out what I actually think. Maybe it’s a delayed response to when people ask me for my views. Or maybe it’s so that I can find out what others think, so that I can realise the holes in my thought process.

I wonder how sentencing will go.

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whirlwind

It’s been a while since I last posted here. Since then so many things have happened: I’ve sat for my final exams, graduated from University (by the grace of God), moved back home to Singapore (temporarily), tried my hand at working in tech, and will be taking my Part A conversion examinations in a little over a week.

It’s funny how I thought post-university would be such a laid back and free period of my life, and yet here I am with what seems like too much on my schedule. In some sense, I guess it has been pretty free: all the things on my schedule are things that I chose to put there. I could have decided not to take Part A but I decided to fork out the money and do it, hence the time I’m supposed to spend studying when I could be doing other things (like playing Shadow of Mordor on the new SLI system or immersing myself in Halo before the next installment comes out). I could have decided not to work at all before I get sucked into the corporate world next year, but I chose to find a job (albeit a part-time one). I could be waiting till I get back to the haze-free weather of the UK to get back into cycling, but I decided to buy a bike. So maybe my busyness is but an exercise of my freedom? Yet it’s so difficult trying to figure out if I’ll regret filling my time with all these (or, in fact, if I’m regretting all of that now).

It’s just as I stand on the brink of a new phase, at the transition between school and career, getting ready to begin the rest of my life, that I realise how quickly time slips through my fingers. In this whirlwind that is life, blink and you’ll find that the winds have carried you somewhere else. A new place, a new time, with the past but a memory.

2 lessons I’ve learnt from what some people have said recently: (1) you need time to stop and think (2) you need to make an effort to remember. Without taking the time to reflect, isn’t that tantamount to wandering through the journey with your eyes closed? If I don’t stop to seek God’s direction or to surrender the next step to Him, how can I say that I am sure I am walking in the path He has set out for me. And how can we learn if we don’t remember? It is what we do with the lessons from our past and the memories of yesterday that adds to the value of what we do today.

So maybe I need to slow down. Stop getting distracted by any and every opportunity that passes by. Stop and appreciate the people I have around me. Stop and think. Maybe life doesn’t need to be a fast-paced action movie; after all it’s usually the slow moving expositions that provide the best character development.

why i believe

So I was just watching Stephen Fry’s tirade against God on the ‘Meaning of Life’ talk show, as well as reading some of the responses to it. I think it’s good that there’s debate on the issue: neither atheists nor religious believers should mindlessly accept what it is they claim to believe. And it’s clear there are brilliant thinkers on all sides of the debate (was going to say ‘both sides’, but then it’s not that straightforward isn’t it), so I don’t think anyone would gain from an argument based on the assertion that another point of view is just plain stupid. Instead we can only put forth our views in the most convincing manner (or what we think is the most convincing manner) possible and leave others the right to disagree. So here’s my view, on some of the reasons why I, personally, believe.

Injustice

Strangely enough (maybe it isn’t actually that strange, since I think God is sovereign over all areas of life), studying jurisprudence has only served to affirm my conviction that God exists. In thinking about concepts like law and justice, I believe you inevitably wind up faced with the problem of origin: where does the ultimate standard originate? If law is not merely a series of commands arbitrarily chosen by a sovereign (in which case it would have no moral legitimacy to bind), then surely it must stem from some ultimate standard. It gains its moral legitimacy from the fact that it applies (or is at least an attempt to emulate) and objective standard which determines what is ultimately right or wrong. This could either be a standard imposed by a supreme lawgiver, or a supreme standard that exists on its own and legitimizes the law-giving of a lawgiver. I personally think that the best way to reconcile this would be to see it as stemming from a supreme lawgiver who IS in fact an embodiment of the supreme standard: a perfect God whose very behavior illustrates the perfect standard of right and wrong.

Justice is another concept which appeals to an objective standard, one is perfectly right in arguing that children dying of bone cancer and innocents suffering at the hands of monstrous tyrants are examples of clear injustice. Yet as CS Lewis and others argue, this necessitates the existence of a pure form of justice. For us to say that the world is horribly wrong, we must be able to point to a conception of the world that is perfectly right: things shouldn’t be a certain way only because they should be something else. This has to be an objective standard because, if justice depends on society and humans, then who are we to say that our standard of justice is objectively better than that of another (e.g. Nazism)? We feel a sense of injustice because we know, deep inside, that things weren’t meant to be this way.

The Dictator God

Well then, you might say, if God really knows what’s right and is all-powerful then He must be a horrible and evil dictator for making us live in a horrible world with so much suffering when He could just fix everything.

In my view, it is PRECISELY BECAUSE He is not a dictator that he allows us to live in a world with suffering. He could remove all capacity for evil in this world, but then what would we be left with? A world of automatons who have no choice but to “spend our life on our knees thanking him” (as Stephen Fry suggests). It is because He is not a dictator that He’s given us a choice: and it wouldn’t be much of a choice if we could only choose what was right, without the option to do what was wrong. It is because we live in such an inter-connected world (and ever more so) that one person’s choice has consequences for another. Suffering stems not from the capricious nature of God, but from the fallen nature of our world. God is not a dictator, but He is perfectly just. As much as He hates suffering (even more than we do), He lets us face it as a consequence of our decisions to do what is wrong instead of right; not necessarily our individual decisions but as a people.

Pretending to not be human

One of the reasons why Stephen Fry has “more truck” with the Greek gods is because they “didn’t pretend to not be human”. Indeed, if a god were nothing more than a “super”-human, it would be horrible for him/her to go about pretending that they were something else. But what if God doesn’t “pretend to not be human” because He isn’t? We were made in His image, not Him in ours. Why then, should we expect Him to come clean about His human appetite, capriciousness and unreasonableness? God exists on a level so far beyond ours that we cannot even begin to comprehend the full extent of His nature; nor can we seek to impose our human standards of reason in order to judge His actions.

Ultimately though, I don’t think that the concept and identity of God can be determined by process of logical reasoning. Else, given the multitude of brilliant minds who have lived before, surely someone would have figured it out by now. I think the only thing one can do is show how one’s belief is NOT illogical. Whilst I don’t feel that the reasoning of atheists like Stephen Fry is unreasonable or illogical, I think that the same accusation cannot be brought against the Christian faith either. It would be wrong to assume that religious belief clouds logic and reasoning: I think it informs it. Well then, if all sides can never succeed in definitively disproving one another, how can you ever know for yourself which is right? I think it all boils down to personal experience and revelation, which is not something you could force down another’s throat, nor could you dispute the reality of their experiences for them.

Then again, what do I really know? I’m not a philosopher, theologian or even a prolific thinker. All I know is that I believe.

our God reigns

so this space has been rather abandoned recently, due to a combination of laziness, busyness, and (perhaps) a lack of inspiration. and yet that’s not to say that life hasn’t been moving along, throwing new challenges (and with them solutions), new struggles (and with them revelations) and new joys.

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even as another round of Tripos begins (and ends off what has been a fairly eventful year), i shall seek to do it right. to set the priorities right, because our God is greater, than anything this world can throw at us. greater than the University, greater than society, greater than worldly success. and it would do me well to remember that

because, God’s amazing and perfect plan to use us for His Kingdom doesn’t preclude flourishing where we are in this time and age. He is, after all, Lord over everything. There is no need for a separation of secular and sacred, if the Lord that watches over our coming and going is watching over every single aspect of our lives.

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today’s Spurgeon daily was really inspiring/comforting, given that the madness that is about to begin in an hour’s time.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Faith’s Check Book, Daily Entry

C. H. Spurgeon

May 26

Commonest Things Blessed

Ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water. (Exodus 23:25)

What a promise is this! To serve God is in itself a high delight. But what an added privilege to have the blessing of the Lord resting upon us in all things! Our commonest things become blessed when we ourselves are consecrated to the Lord. Our Lord Jesus took bread and blessed it; behold, we also eat of blessed bread. Jesus blessed water and made it wine: the water which we drink is far better to us than any of the wine with which men make merry; every drop has a benediction in it. The divine blessing is on the man of God in everything, and it shall abide with him at every time.

What if we have only bread and water! Yet it is blessed bread and water. Bread and water we shall have. That is implied, for it must be there for God to bless it. “Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy waters shall be sure.” With God at our table, we not only ask a blessing, but we have one. It is not only at the altar but at the table that He blesses us. He serves those well who serve Him well. This table blessing is not of debt but of grace. Indeed, there is a trebled grace; He grants us grace to serve Him, by His grace feeds us with bread, and then in His grace blesses it.

 

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all the best, everyone.

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here goes

gratitude

it’s amazing how great God is

no matter how often i keep slipping up, how easily i forget my convictions, how inconsistent i am in prioritising Him, He is faithful. 

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now i can’t decide whether to stay for the additional vac scheme. i know it’s just internships, but somehow it feels as though i’m already deciding whether or not to work here as a career choice. and those, real world, adult decisions, aren’t ones i feel ready to make now.

still i am grateful for even having the option of doing so, even if i ultimately decide not to

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i will trust in You

these times

are highly strange

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thank God for helping me to get the vacation scheme, even though I wasn’t sure how my interview went. well, hopefully this will give me a better idea of where i’d want to work in the future, and perhaps even what i’d want to do.

it seems so far away to even consider the implications of a career away from home, yet deep inside i know that i really should be giving it more thought (and praying about it) because those months will fly by much too quick.

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it’s nice to be on the keys again after having to brush up my electric guitar skills for church. and it’s amazing to be given the opportunity to be part of such an exciting time in Kingsgate’s ministry; i just hope we all continue to grow

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even as week 1 ends, it seems like term never stopped and the holidays were all just a dream. time has been passing so quick and halfway hall is coming up (read: we are old). 

this year is going by in a flash, and it seems like i dont even know what i’ve achieved (if i’ve even achieved anything). so many decisions, so much doubt, so much uncertainty. one can only hope that there are lessons to be retained along the way

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life is a series of mistakes and choices; we only grow by learning to fight fires.