Volume. XXIII, No. 13
Sunday, 28 September 2008

From The Pastor's Heart: Conversion Provoked

My recent trip to a few Asian countries has caused me to think more about other religions and biblical conversion. Hinduism and Buddhism are the two most popular religions in the region. Though there are other types of religions in those countries, they are one way or another, related to these two main religions. In those countries, people generally identify Christianity with western culture, colonial domination or even, imperialism. Thus, they are quite resentful toward Christian missionaries who are trying to convert them to the Christian faith. Others may not have any resistance accepting Christianity as a part of their belief system, but converting solely to Christian faith by forsaking their religions is not welcomed. That\'s why there have been religious conflicts in many countries, sometimes even, very violent conflicts. 

Christian faith is presuppositional faith, believing in the truth of God. Unlike other religions, Christian conversion is grounded on that presuppositional faith. In other words, Christians are defined as people believing in the objective truths as revealed in the Bible. Christian faith, right from the beginning, operates with a set of beliefs, and requires the converts to assent to them. Meanwhile, Hinduism and Buddhism do not require such rigid beliefs. For example, Ajahn Candasiti, who is a senior nun at the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Hertfordshire, said, "I have the impression that he [Jesus Christ] is not particularly interested in converting people to his way of thinking." Probably, such thought is related to one of the basic understandings of life in Buddhism, which is, "Nothing is fixed or permanent - change is always possible." Any fixation of truth, or absolute truth, seems to be in opposition to such understanding. Besides, there is no belief in a personal God in Buddhism. Therefore, it sounds absurd to the Buddhists that they should convert themselves to the eternal and almighty God. It is not centred on the relationship between humanity and God. Everything can be explained by karma through rebirths. There is always a principle of cause and effect. Therefore, our good or bad life was caused by our past and will determine our future. Basically, it is a teaching of self-edification. It teaches that the highest goal in life is to reach Enlightenment; a state of being that goes beyond suffering. We have to work it out. Why then, do we need any conversion from one religion to another?  Everything is up to man - us.  In a sense, if there were any sense of conversion in Buddhism, it is not a conversion, from unbelief and sin, to God, but from the self to enlightenment.

At a fundamental level, Hinduism is not much different from Buddhism. Contrary to popular understanding, it recognizes one god, Brahman, who is understood as the eternal origin and the cause and foundation of all existence. The gods of the Hindu faith represent different expressions of Brahman. Different Hindu communities may have their own divinities whom they worship, but these are simply different ways of approaching the Ultimate. (bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/beliefs/intro_1.shtml

It is also a hindrance for the Hindus to convert to Christian faith. If there are many ways to reach the Ultimate, why do they have to exclude all other ways but one, by converting to Christianity? The Hindus may consider Christianity as one of the many ways to get to heaven. Therefore, it may not be difficult for them to recognize Jesus as a god, or a divine being, but it is impossible to recognize Him as the unique and only Saviour. Hinduism is not a dogmatic religion, but more or like a religion of spiritual thoughts and experiences. Hindus believe that God can be manifested in myriads of ways. Therefore, the exclusive nature of the Gospel message is not so easily acceptable to the Hindu.

Meditation is a popular practice among the Hindus and the Buddhists. The purpose of meditation is to develop a person\'s ability to concentrate and to still the mind. Thus, the person transcends his subjective and objective surroundings. It is not just to gain the sense of tranquillity and release but to reach the level of complete emptiness. It promotes a split between a person\'s mind and the outside world. Thus, he attains self-transcendence, or no-mindness. There is no room for supernatural God, when man himself becomes transcendent. Quite often religious beliefs are intermingled with local cultures, which is a serious challenge to Christian evangelism. Religions have embodied themselves in culture, and people identify themselves with their religions. Thus, converting to a different religion, especially to Christian faith, is an act of betrayal to the communities they belong to. Converts are often ostracised by their own people and become like aliens. Sometimes, from Hinduism, a convert comes from a high class in India, he or she does not want to declare his/her faith in public because of fear. He may believe in Jesus Christ, but does not want to associate himself with the Christian communities in his own land. Thus, he keeps to his own culture, which is heavily related to his former religions. This raises a question about his conversion. How do we have to view cultural obstacles to the conversion through the Gospel? Ephesians 2:1-3 says, "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." Paul makes it clear that there is a line of division between before and after salvation. Before we were saved, we were just like the children of wrath, but our conduct and way of life has been changed since the time of conversion. 

Another difficulty in persuading people from other religions to come to Christian faith is that Christianity gives the final answer to the mystery of life. They look and search for answers to life, which they believe, is mysterious and deep. To discover some portions of great truths, they must do something. When they hear that Jesus is the answer and that when they trust in Him, there is nothing more to search, they think something is not right. This is because they do not believe in dogmatism or presuppositional religion.

How do we encourage people in those countries, where religion is a way of life and culture, to convert to Christ and to live as Christians? This question is not limited just to Hindu or Buddhist countries. In fact, such questions are raised by Muslims and even, atheists. What is the answer to such questions? How can we encourage people to be converted to Christ by faith? 

I do not have any magic answers to these questions. However, I do have a suggestion, which may not provide an immediate solution to the problem, but may be a solution in the long term. Evangelism, in countries unfriendly toward Christianity, should be done more through the nationals. Whichever religion it is, all religions are looking for good examples. They are waiting for saints or masters of their religions who are different from them. One of the reasons that Christian faith has not gained people\'s favour is due to the lifestyles of Christians. They have not exemplified good, godly, and spiritual life to the world. No wonder Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." We, Christians, have not been the light of the world. Instead, the world wants to avoid us. The world rebukes us, rather than the other way around. Hope and pray that we will be better testimonies.


Your Pastor

More Lively Hope




Kitchen Rosters today - Team leader: Sis Suzane Lim

Dinner for Sunday School teachers & VBS helpers - Thurs, 2 Oct, at 6 pm at the home of Bro Peter & Sis Mary Ting.

2008 BPNYC camp forms and program available on the YAF Board.

YAF Election for new committee on Fri, 3 Oct.

RPGs for Oct-Dec 2008 now available on the literature table.

9th Anniversary Thanksgiving today: Congratulations to Rev Dr Patrick Tan & Ebenezer B-P Church, Melbourne

Daylight saving starts next Lord’s Day. Please forward your clock/watch 1 hr before retiring on Sat  evening.

The Lord’s Supper will be held on The Lord’s Day, 12 Oct.

Oct-Dec Service Rosters available on the literature table.


Looking Ahead

Next ECM for Amendments to Church Constitution on 12 Oct. All members are requested to attend.

Special Lecture on “Creation and Evolution” by Dr Carl Wieland at 7:30pm on Friday, 17 Oct 2008. Please invite your friends.

Sunday School Family Sports’ Day on Sat, 18 Oct.

Sunday School Teachers’ Training Course commences Sun, 19 Oct.

2008 BPNYC will be held 1-5 Dec 2008 (Melb)


Praise & Thanksgiving

Journey mercies: Bros Daniel Ki (Port Pirie/Adl) & Jonathan Yeo (Perth/Adl); Sisters Marion Chan, Smirithi George & Shilsha Ninian (Melb/Adl), Maureen Tan (Perth), & Giok Yeo (Adl); & all those arrived in safety.

Church activities: Bible Class; AFG Bible Study; Men’s Fellowship; Senior Citizens’ Fellowship; Sparks4Christ; YAF Bible Study; Working Bees.

Recovery from illness: Rev John McKenzie (Hampstead) & Bro Winston Selvanayagam (Calvary Wakefield).

Success in Fellowship (Surgery) Exams - Bro Pee-Yau Tan

Boundaries for kids - Ps Ki & participants


Prayer Items

Health & God’s healing -Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren; Rev John (at Hampstead) & Mrs Christine McKenzie; Rev Peter Chua, Rev Peter Clements,  Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan, Dn David Yeo’s mother; Bros Tommy Brooks, Yew Shing Chan, Colin Creaser, S Dhamarlingam, Makoto Kobayashi, Raphael Ng’s father, Richard Pearson, Winston Selvanayagan, Mr Yeom, Hans Ziegelmann; Grandpa Ki; Sisters Sheila George, Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Auntie Oei, Fiona Paauwe; Margaret, Dianne, & Sarah Pearson, Aranka Rejtoe, Susan Veradi, Irena, Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law; & others who are having chemotherapy and radiotherapy and those in affliction.

Cambodia Missions - Rev Stephen Choi & Ministry

Kuching Missions - Teo family.

Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Pr H S Lim (BPCWA, Perth)

Pastor Ki: future ministry.

Pr David Weng: ministry in Hope.

YAF September30in30 & Street Evangelism: Salvation of those who received tracts.

5th Anniversary Thanksgiving: Rev Timothy Tow & True Life B-P Church, S’pore, on 5 Oct.

Anniversary Thanksgiving: Strathalbyn Bible Christian Church (Rev James White) on Sun, 12 Oct.

Journey mercies: Rev Tracy Minnick, Rev Dr Patrick & Mrs Anne Tan (Adl); Dn David Yeo (Perth); Bro Jonathan Liao (Adl); Sis Maybelline Tan (Adl); & others travelling.

Job - Bro Cong Pham & Sis Judy Li.

Coming YAF & AFG retreats - Rev Tracy Minnick, Rev Dr Patrick & Mrs Anne Tan, organisers & participants.

 God’s blessing on wedding - Bro Leonard Teo & Sis Suzanne Millard on Sat, 11 Oct (Compton, Quebec, Canada)



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