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17 June 2015

Hello from Singapore, the ultra-modern island nation one degree above the equator, wedged between Malaysia and Indonesia.

Here my wife and I are teaching a group of 120 men and women (evenly divided) on two interrelated topics: church history and Christian doctrine. Some are church workers; others have taken a whole week off work for the 5-day program! Many of our students are advanced in years, but most are college-age, full of life and eager to learn. As always, we love being back here. It's not just the delicious food and intriguing culture; it's the people. We have so many relationships, from old friends in our London campus ministry days (1980s) to new ones -- like the amazingly hospitable couple who are putting us up.

Our work here in Asia, added to the normal ministry load plus my Lincoln Christian University professorship (this is the last week of class for my distance-learning master's degree students) makes me feel a bit like the multi-armed divinity whose image replaced my photograph (above). A lot going on -- but (alas) without the calm demeanor! Your prayers for serenity appreciated!

In the previous bulletin I shared about our time in the Philippines. Afterwards we spent four days in Cambodia. Following the pattern of visiting a smaller group in addition to a larger group, we headed to Siem Reap (a group of 31 members -- photo below) and then Phnom Penh (several hundred). 

Siem Reap is the location of the vast (1000 sq km!) World Heritage site, Angkor Wat. There are a stunning 1000+ Hindu temples, later taken over by the Buddhists. The structures date to around 800-1400 AD. Special thanks to Kinda and Phirun for taking us around the spectacular ruins. And to the local fellowship for making us feel at home.

In Phnom Penh we were able to return to the nation's most advanced medical facility, the Sihanouk Hospital. We feel tremendously proud of the work all the staff are doing, and are amazed at the expansion of the work nationally. Also encouraging was the Goldstone School, a  top-flight model of education.

Our primary purpose for the trip was to teach. On a
Saturday evening Vicki and I spoke to the sisters and brothers (separate rooms) on Going Deeper in the Bible (especially focusing on the importance of context, reconsidering familiar passages). I was also able to deliver the Sunday sermon, on Hope. My text was Ephesians 4:3-6, focusing on the meaning of the "one hope" in verse 4. The hope, of course, is the resurrection from the dead (Acts 23:6, 26:6, etc). The message investigated not only the meaning of the one hope, but also allowed the group to dream a bit -- about the resurrection body, the new earth, and even what responsibilities might await us in heaven. Thanks, Sovann, especially for translating me.
Euthyphro Dilemma: key points
Last week we studied the Euthyphro Dilemma. If you missed it, click here. The goal was to arm us with the ability to counter an argument atheists use to refute theism (the belief in God). Highlights:
  • No philosophy can disprove God. It is a futile exercise to attempt to disprove God!
  • God's commands are neither arbitrary nor superfluous. 
  • God's nature itself is the standard of goodness. D. A. Carson put it well: "The dimensions of evil are thus established by the dimensions of God; the ugliness of evil is established by the beauty of God; the filth of evil is established by the purity of God; the selfishness of evil is established by the love of God" (How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil (IVP 1990), 44).
The Answering Skeptics series:
Hypocrisy, Scripture, Morality, Nonsense questions, God, Science, Suffering, Miracles, Christ, and Religion
God is dead?
"God is dead and we have killed him," the famous dictum of Nietzsche (1844-1900), doesn't mean that God once existed but does no more. "God is dead" refers to the functional significance of God for morality and ethics. Without a God, there is no way to speak of true morality.

I'm not just regurgitating something I read about this philosopher. Last year I read his Beyond Good and Evil -- pretty amazing. I found such bold assertions as "There is no such thing as moral phenomena, but only a moral interpretation of phenomena," and also "The whole of morality is a long, audacious falsification" (Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, IV, 108 and 291). No wonder he was Hitler's favorite philosopher.

What Nietzsche meant was that the old world (God, absolutes, morality) is gone. We have undone it. If there's no God, then it's pointless to talk about right and wrong. There is no morality in a godless world. With this the thinking Christian should agree! 

Nietzsche's predictions for the 20th century (he died in the last year of the 19th) were spot on. He foresaw that the world, morally unhinged, would go crazy, ending up awash in blood. Indeed, a pall of insanity descended on our planet, and the levels of violence reached -- often justified by godless or atheistic ideologies -- dwarfed all previous centuries (with 100-150 million deaths).

In short: No God, no morality. Nothing is right or wrong; it just is what it is.
Until next week...
We have only just arrived in Singapore. But we'll be home in a week. Then I will draft the final piece on Morality in our Answering Skeptics series. Thanks for spreading the word; a lot of people from all around the globe are reporting back that they are already using the series in their outreach. That (for me) is great news.

Your brother,
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