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Frequently Asked Questions - Practical Issues

FAQs - Practical Issues

I agree with you completely that every movie has negative values because they are produced by sinful men, and that we need discernment when viewing anything on TV or at the movies. I preached on this just a few months ago during our worship service.

Our concern would be primarily for children, since they do not know yet how to exercise discernment. And sometimes even adults who accompany them, not having seen the show before, may only discern that a show has negative value after viewing it for a while and the only thing they can do then is to walk out of the cinema and not mind the loss of the money spent on their tickets.

Thus it is helpful to publish any warnings from other Christians about negative values that are a known about movies that are currently being shown, so that people won’t have to waste their money on them.

A better option is to recommend that Christians do not go to cinemas to watch movies at all, and exercise discernment when watching movies on videotape, VCD or TV shows. The problem of cinema entertainment is that the viewer has no control whatsoever over what he (and his children who are with him) sees on the cinema screen. Much of the advertisements contain unwholesome images that can stick in the child’s mind. An even if a ‘good’ movie is being watched in the cinema, there may be some shots of other shows that are going to be screened soon, and these may be bad.

In contrast, watching a ‘good’ movie at home gives the adult viewer control to cut out advertisements, change the channel or even stop viewing the show altogether without loss if it is discovered that the show is actually bad. An adult can also preview a videotape or VCD to evaluate its material before the children watch it.

We would encourage Christians to buy or borrow good wholesome videos, VCDs and DVDs, and even to get those that are produced by Christians and which teach good biblical values. There are some Christian media ministries that distribute such material.

Now, while all movies have some negative values, some, like Harry Potter have much more of it than others. Witchcraft and occultism are portrayed as good things. The greater the potential harm, the more urgently we need to warn people about it. And especially when the movie is very popular among children like this one. It may lead them to experiment with the occult world. Some who experiment with occultism by using Tarot cards, the Ouija board, or role playing games like ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ have been known to get trapped in the occult world. We should watch out for the devil’s devices (I Thess 5:22).

All believers should be using their spiritual gifts in the church (cf. 2 Timothy 1:6 - "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands"). Not to do so would be the sin of neglecting the spiritual gift (cf. 1 Timothy 4:14 - "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.") So to answer your first question - Yes, each believer should discover his spiritual gift and use it well.

But for the second question, the answer is that the Christian is doing nothing wrong or unwise if he serves in areas where he is not gifted. There is no prohibition concerning areas of God’s service, except those prohibiting women from usurping the man’s authority. Those who are not gifted for a particular ministry may have to serve in that particular ministry, simply because of his availability and the lack of willing helpers. He may relinquish that ministry when someone else who is gifted for it is found.

There are also areas of service where all believers are to serve, even though they may not necessarily be gifted for them. E.g. evangelism. Even though there is the spiritual gift of an evangelist, all of us must still be witnessing to people around us whenever there is opportunity. Another example is the gift of Faith. All of us are called to exercise faith. But those who have this gift are able to exercise it more effectively than others.

There is nothing sacred about animal life since they are not made in God’s image. They don’t have souls and their existence ends at death. There is therefore no biblical warrant to prohibit man’s use of technology on animals, except to attempt to crossbreed two entirely different species of animals (e.g. cat and dog) to create a new one (see Leviticus 19:19). Jacob did some selective breeding which received God’s blessings (Genesis 30:37-43) but it was limited within the same species.

Animal cloning does not violate the ‘after their kind’ principle of Genesis 1:25. In fact some creatures do reproduce asexually or by a natural cloning process (e.g. the phenomenon of parthenogenesis in bees and other insects).

I don’t see anything wrong with transplanting animal organs to save a person’s life. It is the same as slaughtering a pig or cow to eat its flesh. Getting an organ transplant from a living and willing human person whose life is not taken by the loss of the organ, or from a brain-dead person is also all right as no human life is taken at all. But when a human embryo has to be created from a person’s cell by cloning, that human embryo must be regarded as a person, for it has the potential to develop into a full-grown person under the right conditions. It is not just a mass of tissue. It is not right to treat it the same way that animals are treated.

A premonition is a feeling that something is going to happen before it actually does. This is oftentimes subjective. Sometimes it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, e.g. if the person who has the premonition that he is going to fail his driving test, performs badly in his test as a result of it. Although some people have reported that their premonitions came true, what is not reported are the many premonitions that did not come true, and that turned out to be false.

Some people have bad dreams and they firmly believe that this dream will come true. I have had my share of such dreams, which for a while made me worry if they will come true. But I realised later on, that they do not mean anything at all. They are merely the result of our worst fears working on our minds.

The Bible does not speak directly on the subject of premonition, but it emphasises that our faith should always be based on the revealed word of God, and not on our subjective feelings. E.g. Elijah felt so fearful of Jezebel when she sought for revenge, that he fled to Mt Horeb. He should have trusted in God to defend him against her. But he trusted his feelings which kept convincing him that Jezebel will succeed in having him killed. Simon Peter denied Christ three times because he was convinced by his subjective feelings that he would probably be arrested and executed with Christ if his identity was known.

I think that premonitions may sometimes be used by Satan to convince people that they can be like God. It is God’s prerogative alone to know the future, or secrets of the spiritual realm. Everyone wants to know the future. But God alone knows the future. Instead of consulting God, they try to consult someone who can tell them what the future will be. If we believe that our premonitions are correct, we would be usurping God’s prerogative. Isaiah 46:9,10 - "for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure."

There is no requirement for us to fast, but a Christian may fast when: a. He is seeking God’s guidance for an important matter (e.g. Acts 13:2); b. He is about to start an important undertaking that requires God’s enablement (e.g. Acts 13:3; Esther 4:16); c. The church calls for a fast in times of danger and national disaster (2 Chronicles 20:3). Fasting does not ‘expedite’ God’s answer to prayer! It is meant to express our sincerity in seeking after God and wanting to do His will. Any fasting that seeks after benefits for oneself is not acceptable to God (e.g. Zechariah 7:5,6; Isaiah 58:3-7).

I am aware of Satanic symbols such as the inverted pentagram. Christians should not identify themselves with Satan, and hence should refrain from wearing such things or using them as decorations in their homes. Even if something is not overtly Satanic, but related to superstitious practices and idol worship, they should not be used. E.g. I have seen a Christian home where an upside down Chinese character ‘Fu’ was prominently displayed in the living room. It would lead non-Christian visitors to think that Christians believe in the power of such ‘talismans’ to ward off evil and bad luck.

However, I think we should be careful not to carry this to an extreme. Some time ago, one of our dollar bills in Singapore had a picture of a dragon on it, and some were saying that Christians should not use those bills at all, as it is Satanic. Someone called me this past week saying that her husband had bought a videotape documentary on snakes in the Amazon. She had protested, saying that the snake is a symbol of Satan. I explained to her that snakes are God’s creatures, like all other animals, and only the snake used by Satan in the Garden of Eden to tempt Eve had anything to do with him.

As for the Merlion, this is the first time I have ever heard that it has anything to do with Satan. There is no mythology that I know of, behind the Merlion. It was invented in the ‘70s by the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board as their emblem, and I think it was based on two ideas: Singapore is named after the lion (Malay: Singa) because of the legend that an Indonesian Prince saw a lion (probably a tiger) when he landed on this island. The fish body of the Merlion was derived from the fact that Singapore is an island nation surrounded by water. Perhaps it was also an adaptation of the famous ‘Little Mermaid’ of Denmark that has remained as Denmark’s tourism symbol to this day, based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen.

What the statue of liberty is to the U.S. and the Maple leaf to Canada, the Merlion is to Singapore. Therefore I do not think that Christians should refrain from having objects with the Merlion in their possession.

As you mentioned, there are two views on this. The first which is predestination in marriage, means that there is only one person in the world that God has chosen for a Christian to marry, and it is his/her duty to find that person if he is to be in the perfect will of God.

Some years back someone wrote a book challenging this view, and proposing that there is not just one person that a Christian can marry to be in the perfect will of God, but several, who meet all the biblical criteria for Christian marriage. The Christian can therefore choose to marry anyone within this ‘pool’ and still be in the perfect will of God.

I tend to take the first view, based on my understanding of the eternal decree of God as given in our Westminster Confession of Faith. However, I would also include that finding that person whom God has chosen for a Christian to marry is not left entirely to that person alone, but God will providentially guide the circumstances for him/her to meet and get to know the person well enough to make an informed decision to marry that person. The Christian must apply biblical criteria to determine if that person is truly God’s choice for him.

I feel that this view provides the best security for marriage. If rough spots are encountered in marriage life, the Christian will not doubt whether the person he married was the right one. He will take it as part of God’s sovereign will for him to press on through the rough spots together and resolve them, since he is convinced that God has chosen this person for him for a good purpose. He will also trust in God’s enablement to help him.

Matthew 19:9 - "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."

The exception made in this verse is for fornication – i.e. if the wife has slept with another man. To remarry for any other reason is to commit adultery. If the wife is a Christian – Find out what happened to the eloped wife. If she has slept with or married someone else, then remarriage is permissible. If she has died, remarriage is permissible. But if she is still alive and has has not married someone else nor slept with another man, the husband cannot remarry. Instead he should try to love her enough to win her back. In fact even if she has committed fornication, the husband can still decide to forgive her and win her back – e.g. Hosea, who brought Gomer back, instead of putting her away and marrying another.

But if the wife is not a Christian, then 1 Corinthians 7:15 provides one more exception where remarriage is permitted – desertion by an unbelieving spouse, with or without fornication. "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases." The term ‘not under bondage implies that the husband who has been desserted by the unbelieving wife can now remarry. But once again, this should be done after all efforts have been made to win back the unbelieving spouse.

(Assuming that he has not eloped.) In any marriage, divorce should not be seen as the first course of action but as the last. If the husband wants to continue to be unfaithful, the wife should first confront him about his actions, and if he is a Christian, she should appeal to the Biblical commandments he has broken – adultery, unfaithfulness to vow made before God. If he refuses to listen to the scriptures she should threaten to make his unfaithfulness known to others, so that they can get involved as objective witnesses. Very often the shame of having one’s sins revealed beyond the home may be enough to make the husband change his mind and behaviour.

If he still refuses to repent, but continues to sleep with other women, she should carry out her threat and bring a mature Christian to help as a witness to the wrongdoing and persuade the husband to repent of his infidelity.

If this does not work, she can then seek the church to deal with the husband – He should be excommunicated, as an example to all believers to show the seriousness of this sin. This would be an appropriate time for her to move out and live separately. The church would know that she is not the guilty party and show love and care for her.

If even excommunication does not make the husband repent, she can then divorce him. Matthew 18:17 – "And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." Even if the husband does not want a divorce, she can sue for a divorce. She would not be sinning against God, because Matthew 19 already states that divorce from a believer is permissible on grounds of fornication.

Anything that usurps the prerogatives of God breaks the first commandment. Take for example God’s prerogative to save. If we place our trust in anything or anyone else but God to save us, protect us or deliver us when we are in trouble, we also violate the first commandment. For example, the Chinese use of the "pak-kwa", carrying talismans in pockets; reciting certain formula prayers (as if the words themselves have magical power); and asking for help from a certain patron saint. When these prayers are answered, who gets the thanks and the glory?

Another prerogative that is God’s alone is His prerogative to receive all glory. (see Isa 42:8) If we give credit to someone or something else for what God has done, we break the first commandment. For example: Attributing a blessing from God to good fortune or to luck. Some people who do not want to appear religious before their friends will substitute the word God with something else. E.g. Thank goodness! or thank heavens! Let us avoid doing this.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

November 19 & 26 - The End of the World

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10