Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sanctification by water a separate doctrine from blood atonement? A sermon by Pastor Joseph Prince

I have been visiting different churches for the past few weeks in the month. One church which I went to about a month back was New Creation Church, a megachurch led by Pastor Joseph Prince who is a quite well-known personality in the Singapore Christian community for being a megachurch pastor. Honestly, I have quite an aversion towards these non-denominational charismatic churches because of some of the doctrines they espouse, such as health-and-wealth prosperity gospel, and tithing-and-prosperity gospel. I am nonetheless curious about church communities beyond the church I attend regularly, and one impetus for me to explore New Creation was a friend who goes there regularly inviting me to join for service.

Pastor Joseph Prince gave the sermon for that Sunday. Actually, it was a telecast of his sermon in the morning service being displayed during the late afternoon service which I attended that day. One part of his sermon which I found both interesting and unfamiliar, perhaps also with the uneasy feeling of it being heretical, was his espousal of the doctrine of water sanctification. That excerpt of the sermon had been uploaded onto youtube and can be seen here. What Pastor Prince talked about on that point was that for a Christian who has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, the redemption of sins by the blood of Jesus on the cross is administered once and for all on the believer upon his or her acceptance of Jesus. What is at work then when a believer asks for forgiveness thereafter is not the washing of sins by the blood, but sanctification by the water of uncleanliness. According to Pastor Prince, if we say that we have to be continually washed by the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, it would imply that the blood of Jesus was ineffective in washing us of all our sins when we had accepted him as Lord and Savior in the first place. What then is acquired when a believer sin is not sin per se, but uncleanliness, and that is eradicated through the doctrinal process of “washing with water”. What “washing with water” entails though does not require the actual use of water, but is performed symbolically through ordinary Christian activities, such as listening to a sermon, reading a Christian devotional message, or reading the bible. Pastor Prince claims that this practice of sanctification with water was what was being done when Jesus washed the feet of the disciple. The Lutheran church which I attend regularly would have simply taken the significance of this act as a moral of servanthood Christianity, but Pastor Prince seems to think that it goes further to suggest a doctrine of continual water sanctification for spiritual uncleanliness. He goes on to substantiate this by referring to the Old Testament ritual practice for the purification of uncleanliness as described in Numbers 19. There, a heifer is burnt and its ashes mixed with water to be sprinkled over a person for purification of uncleanliness. A Lutheran church like the one I regularly attend would have taken the view that these rituals were for purification of ceremonial uncleanliness, and are thereby redundant given the new covenant. But Pastor Prince seems to make a distinction of such rituals described in Numbers 19 as ‘water’ rituals from that of rituals involving blood sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins, and he ties it in to his doctrine of water sanctification by saying that whilst the blood rituals have been fulfilled and circumvented once and for all by Jesus’ death on the cross, the water rituals still applies in the symbolic process of water sanctification through spiritual cleansing activities.

In that, Pastor Prince was critical of both mainstream denominational view and left-wing grace preachers. He says that both do not take into account this doctrine of water sanctification but focus only upon blood atonement for sins. He critiques denominational theology for leading to a self-condemnational attitude of the believer who constantly languishes with the need for cleansing of impurity by the blood for sins. He critiques other grace preachers for missing out on the need for sanctification through such spiritual practices mentioned above even as a Christian has been cleansed once and for all by the blood.

My own thoughts on this? On the one hand, I am somewhat positively surprised, because I have heard criticisms by Christians in my own church of Pastor Prince being antinomian with his grace teaching, and this doctrine of water sanctification seems to emphasize a need for spiritual discipline within his church. On the other hand, I am sceptical. For one, I don’t see how this doctrine of water sanctification is espoused in the act of Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet. I think it is quite a stretch to infer a doctrine of water sanctification out of this act alone when Jesus didn’t explicitly describe such a significance to it. For two, I don’t see how this process of water sanctification is now to be carried out in the symbolic way of spiritual devotional activities such as reading the bible, rather than in the manners described in the passages cited by Joseph Prince. How is listening to a sermon or reading a devotional material like the Daily Bread to be in the process of being sanctified by the water? Why shouldn’t it require the exact ritual of either sacrificing a heifer in Numbers 19, or the actual washing of feet as performed by Jesus in the new testament? Also, isn’t Pastor Prince subject to the same criticisms he levy on the other churches’ views? Wouldn’t this continual process of water sanctification come off as legalistic and condemnational as the traditional Christian view of the continual need for blood sanctification? Perhaps a counter-argument to that would be that according to Pastor Joseph Prince’s view, this prescription of the need for water sanctification is with regards to mere extant spiritual uncleanliness and not spiritual impurity that affects the spiritual core of a person. Pastor Prince used the analogy of a gold bar in dirt being washed with water, whereby the gold derives its value from it being gold, but is made clean from the dirt around it by washing with water. Likewise, a Christian has been justified as righteous by the blood of Jesus, but periodically comes into contact with spiritual dirt or uncleanliness, and thereby requires periodic sanctification by water. It is a technical distinction, and I am not sure how far such distinction matters to a lay Christian. Perhaps Christians who struggle with a sentiment of chronic self-condemnation might find this doctrine of water sanctification appealing because it pronounces him as righteous even though he might feel that he is still not righteous enough or sins too frequently as to be made pure in the sight of God for any considerable time extent, whereas a traditional blood atonement doctrine might make him feel continually condemned of spiritual impurity for his frequent sinning. A traditionalist response could be that the person in question who feels constantly self-condemned should feel so because forgiveness of sins through the blood is so freely given by God upon confession of sins and repentence. But I know of Christians who struggle with the idea that their sins are too big to be even forgiven by God in the first place, even with the blood atonement of Jesus, and I don’t see how this doctrine of water sanctification would resolve such self-condemnational attitude because such a Christian wouldn’t think he has been made righteous by justification by the blood in the first place.

I wonder how far Pastor Joseph Prince’s view are prevalent in the Christian community, or whether they are unique to his church and his teachings. I also wonder whether it is something he came up with himself, or endorsed from some other Christian thinkers or preachers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Better Call Saul

I finished watching the first season of the American television drama series Better Call Saul. Better Call Saul is a spin-off from the popular television series Breaking Bad. I really enjoyed watching the Breaking Bad series, and was quite keen about the spin-off when I first heard about it being in the making. It features Saul Goodman as the protagonist. Saul was the infamous lawyer in Breaking Bad who aided the main characters there, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in their drug-related business. The name of the show takes after the iconic line used by the titular character, Saul Goodman, in his outlandish advertisements promoting his service as a lawyer. The show is a prequel to the Breaking Bad series, and portrays Saul Goodman in his early career life. Back then, he was known by his real name, Jimmy McGill. Before continuing, I must warn readers of spoilers in my write-up.

Prior to being a lawyer, Jimmy was a professional conman, who together with his friend and partner-in-crime, pulled numerous scams over greedy and unsuspecting victims. He was given the nickname Slippin’ Jimmy for his unctuous ways. When he got into trouble with the law later on for some misdemeanor against an influential person who used his connections to get the public prosecutor to press harsh charges against him, Jimmy promised his older brother Chuck, who was a well-respected lawyer, to give up his illicit ways if Chuck would defend him from those charges. Subsequently, after being acquitted by having those charges dropped, he started working in the mailroom in the big law firm which his older brother was a named partner in. He subsequently got a law degree through an online course, and proceeded to his career as a lawyer.

The purpose of the series is supposedly to show how Jimmy McGill began from the ‘little fish’ he was to become the ‘big shark’ Saul Goodman he was in the Breaking Bad Series. From my impression of Jimmy McGill so far in season one, he seems to be a pretty likable person as a deeply flawed man who retains within him some level of conscience. Even though he succumbed to the temptations of choosing the wrong ways at times, he would recant of his wrong actions subsequently and speak about ‘doing the right thing’. He even exhibited virtues at times such as courage and magnanimity when trying to obtain a lighter punishment for his accomplices who had ratted on him to the hot-headed gang boss Tuco Salamanca. And when he ventured to elder law later on in the show, he was a pretty nice guy towards the old folks in the elderly institution and was soft on them when they couldn’t afford his lawyer fees. I was thus wondering while watching the show as to how such a character could transform into Saul Goodman.

I guess the writers of the show must have struggled with trying to write a script which presents Jimmy McGill as a flawed but likable character, with his relatively more unscrupulous and nefarious persona as Saul Goodman. If the trajectory of the show had continued the way it was up to nearing the end of the season’s episode, and without the need to reconcile with the backdrop of his future facade as Saul Goodman, it might very well have made for a heart-warming ‘flawed but good-hearted man with an insidious past changes for the better to help the weak and oppressed’ kind of show. It wouldn’t have dawned on anyone who is unfamiliar with Breaking Bad that Jimmy McGill would go on to become the lawyer that actively helps drug lords get away with their crimes.

I am unsure whether this portrayal of Jimmy McGill makes for a huge gap in his characterization with that of Saul Goodman. I guess there was an attempt towards the ending of the season’s episode to try to bridge this gap by introducing a precursor to why Jimmy would go back to his shady Slippin’ Jimmy ways. This precursor was when Jimmy’s brother Chuck revealed to Jimmy that he was the one who had opposed Jimmy’s employment as a lawyer in his law firm because he thought Jimmy was not fit to be a lawyer given his innately shady character. And Jimmy, instead of trying to prove his brother wrong, decides to go back to his Slippin’ Jimmy ways and vows that he would not allow himself to be held back by his conscience to do the right thing in the future. I wonder whether this a little bit of a stretch to try to converge the character of Jimmy McGill with Saul Goodman. The show could very well have started Jimmy off along a different footing as not being such a nice guy in the first place, with the sort of unethical, hard-nosed traits that one might come across in other lawyer shows like Suits. That said, I actually appreciate a lawyer show where the main lawyer character comes off as humane and nice, rather than a show where the main lawyer character is an alpha-male top dog who comes up top when it comes to an ego fight. It is one reason why I didn’t like Suits even though a lot of my peers like it because the protagonist Harvey Spector seems almost like a human cyborg who goes about bamboozling his opposition without breaking a sweat or a shred of respect for them. Compared to Harvey Spector, Jimmy McGill is more of an underdog, who faces tougher and meaner opponents than him, and that makes Jimmy more likable and relatable as a character for me

Perhaps the moral of the show can be taken as being about how a person trying to change for the better can relapse into his shady ways because of wrong decisions, and also because of the lack of faith or support in him by those who could have had the ability to help him change for the better.

Friday, April 10, 2015

John 19:11 – Who is from above? And who guilty of the greater sin?

I went to church last week for Good Friday and Easter Sunday services. I can vaguely recall what the sermon was about for easter, but there was one point made on the passage of John 19 when Jesus was being interrogated by Pontius Pilate which stuck out to me. In verse 11, Jesus answered Pilate after Pilate had told Jesus that he had the power to crucify him and release him that Pilate could have no power against him unless it was given from above, and therefore, the one who delivered him to Pilate has the greater sin. According to the pastor, Jesus was telling Pilate that God’s power was greater than Pilate’s, and that if God had not ordained Pilate to have such power, he would not have been able to boast of it. With regards to who is being referred to as having the greater sin for delivering Jesus to Pilate, the pastor says that this refers to the chief priest, Caiaphas.

I was perplexed by this verse because the sentencing suggest some relation between the power that had been given from above to Pilate, and the one having the greater sin for delivering Jesus to Pilate. It seemed that a literal interpretation might suggest that the one from above is guilty of the greater sin for delivering Jesus to Pilate. I was checking commentaries about this passage during service, but the more devotional sources online expresses similar opinions with what my pastor says, although some commentaries suggest that Judas Iscariot was included in the one referred to as having delivered Jesus and thus being guilty of the greater sin.

I looked up the passage online again today, and found that there were a few forums (see here and here) where some commentators expressed the same perplex about the verse. One answer on the forum referred to the original language of the word ‘from above’, anōthen, as being used in other passages of the bible, and in most instances referring to God or heaven, but it disapproves of the idea that the authority mentioned as being guilty of the greater sin refers to God and that this refers rather to the Chief Priest and the Sanhedrin. However, it doesn’t really explain why the logical structure of the sentence is the way it is. Why is there the word ‘therefore’?

I looked up the word ‘therefore’ in its original language on blue letter bible. The original language is in greek, and is called dia. I am wondering whether ‘therefore’ has a different connotation in its original form. From my brief perusal, it would seem that the word ‘therefore’ is used in a manner largely consistent with how one may understand it in today’s times. But there are some instances in other passage where the way ‘therefore’ is used in other parts of the bible where I find them as perplexing as the John 19:11 verse. For example, Matthew 12:30 – 31 writes “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” I am again perplexed as to how the second part of the passage relates to the first. What relation does blasphemy against the Spirit being unforgivable have to do with whether one is with or against Jesus?

I was hoping that the easier solution to John 19:11 would be to interpret the one from above as mentioned by Jesus as referring to the authority who had delivered Jesus to Pilate. I thought it would make sense if it was Caiaphas who had given authority to Pilate to put Jesus to death, and is therefore guilty of the greater sin for being the principal of the decision. But in light of the argument that ‘from above’ in its original language has largely been used to refer to God or heaven, I don’t think this interpretation is as viable as I would had first thought.

If the correct interpretation to be taken is that the one from above refers to God, and the one who delivered Jesus to Pilate and is guilty of the greater sin is the Chief Priest, perhaps a way to explain the logical connection would be that God has given the right to Pilate to put Jesus to death, but this is not so for the Chief Priest, and therefore, the Chief Priest is guilty of a greater sin since his exercise of authority to crucify Jesus is not intended by God, whilst that of Pontius Pilate is.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew

Today brings about the passing away of Singapore’s first Prime Minister and Founding Father, Lee Kuan Yew. I learnt about this news while on my way to school in the morning, and had turned on the facebook application on my phone to see people sharing news on the matter.

It certainly is a momentous event in Singapore, and a ubiquitous conversation topic amongst people from all circles of Singapore society for the day. For many people in Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew cuts a larger-than-life figure that is almost intertwined with the core of Singapore identity. For supporters, Lee Kuan Yew was chiefly responsible for the economic success and well-rounded development of modern Singapore society, whilst for detractors, he was an authoritarian whose heavy-handed methods suppressed democratic ideals and civil liberties. I know of a handful of people around me who fall into one camp or the other, though often, I am unsure about the reasons for either their support or hatred. I would like to be objective, but this is certainly not an easy task. I just think that credit should be given where they are due, and criticisms levied for where they are justified.

The only time I have come across Lee Kuan Yew in person was when I was walking through the Botanic gardens after school. That was some time ago last year in October I think. Lee Kuan Yew was being driven in a golf cart within the park, with two bodyguards sitting at the back of the cart. I was caught up with excitement with the sighting, and turned to an unacquainted schoolmate walking behind me to exclaim in as calm a manner possible that the person in the cart upfront was Lee Kuan Yew. But the cart moved quickly, and it wasn’t long before it had moved into another section of the park out of sight, so the schoolmate whom I had exclaimed to didn’t get to see it.

I guess a part of me was in awe, another somewhat intimidated, and yet another eager enough that I just might have called out “Hey! Uncle Harry! Take a photo with me!” But that would have been downright awkward and inappropriate given the formidable figure Lee Kuan Yew is. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Salvation of the unevangelised : inclusivism, monolism, and universalism

I came across an old email featuring a discussion my cell group in the varsity Christian fellowship had a few years ago. It was about the topic on the salvation of the unevangelised. A fellow cell group member had shared an article with us giving an answer to the issue. In that article, the writer, who goes by the name Craig Bluemel, talks about how the passage in Roman 2:14-15 allows for those who do not know the gospel to be saved by living to the precepts of God’s ‘Law’. According to Craig Bluemel, this ‘Law’ is summed up with the saying ‘Ye shall love your neighbor as yourself’. Craig Bluemel then goes on to talk about how knowledge of such a law is inherent even in those who have never heard the gospel, such the indigenous people whom the missionaries visited, who “instead of finding ‘savages’ or those still practicing cannibalism in remote parts of the world, to their amazement, they find people with a sweet, gentle, and even childlike nature, who also possess a strong faith in the ‘Creator.’” Craig Bluemel writes that Jesus can bring these people into oneness with the Father as sons and daughters of the Most High, and that once they have made a heart confession of Jesus, they can partake in the path of the glories of salvation found only.

I shared a Q and A article by the Christian apologist William Lane Craig with my group where he talks about the basis for his subscription to the idea of Molinism when it comes to salvation of the unevangelised. Molinism speaks about how God has arranged for those whom he knows would be receptive to the gospel to be placed in parts of the world where they would be exposed to the gospel. The corollary to this idea of Molinism is that God has placed those who are not receptive to the gospel within parts of the world where they are not exposed to the gospel. The reason why William Lane Craig subscribes to Molinism is because he thinks it would be unfair if God sends to hell those who would have believed in the gospel, but did not because they were not exposed to it, and also failed to believe in God based on general revelation according to Romans 1:18 which states that God is apparent from creation and therefore, there is no excuse not to believe in him.

I have some thoughts about these two ideas regarding salvation of the unevangelised. With regards to Craig Blumenthal, I wonder whether his idea that those who did not receive the gospel can be saved through following the ‘Law’ is adequate. For one, it appears to me that this creates the problem whereby those who did not receive the gospel are held to a higher standard in that they have to fulfill the ‘Law’ before they can obtain salvation, rather than simply by believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I don’t think following the ‘Law’ by simply loving your neighbor as yourself is as easy as what it would appear to be. According to mainstream Christian thoughts, it is precisely because of humanity’s inadequacy in following the ‘Law’ which is the reason that God provided Jesus as the means for salvation. So I really am not too sure whether it is so easy a solution to the problem of salvation of the unevangelised for Craig Bluementhal to say that a lot of these people intuitively followed the ‘Law’ and are thereby saved.

And with regards to William Lane Craig’s Molinism, I also wonder how adequate it is. For one, I think it doesn’t quite get rid of the notion of unfairness that William Lane Craig is concerned with regarding God sending unevangelised people to hell, even if they should have believed if they had been exposed to the gospel. I mean, how can God be justified in sending these people to hell on the basis that they would never have believed even if they had been exposed to the gospel? That seems to me to be the same as if a judge would send someone to be punished for a crime which he didn’t commit on the basis that he would have committed it given a different circumstance. Secondly, it would appear to me that Romans 1:18 is saying that there is no excuse for someone not to believe in God based on general revelation alone, even if he would have believed if he had been exposed to the gospel. Taken literally, it is saying that God is just in sending to hell those who are unevangelised and did not believe based on this general revelation alone. Nevertheless, I personally do think that this is quite a harsh outcome and can agree with Craig that this seems unfair.

Honestly, I have been toying with the idea of Christian universalism when it comes to the issue of salvation. If one wants to talk about fairness, it would seem to me that the fairest outcome is for everyone, whether believers or non-believers, to be saved into heaven. No one deserves hell I think, except for really wicked or evil people. But I realize that this idea doesn’t square off with mainstream Christian beliefs or explicit texts of the bible. I am just attracted to this idea based on my thoughts of what would be fair.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Meeting with Mormons – a reflection of personal attitude to faith

I had a chat with some Mormons whom I encountered while walking through the Botanic Gardens a few months ago. The two Mormon guys said that they were from America, in particular, the state of Utah. I have read up a little about Mormonism in the past, and occasionally see these caucasian Mormon missionaries in public places, but this was the first time that they had approached me. I know that within mainstream Christianity, most people regard Mormonism as a cult and not part of Christianity. Nevertheless, I decided to listen to what the two Mormon guys had to say.

The introduction was fairly uncontroversial, with talks about believe in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for salvation of sins. Then comes the clutch, where one of the Mormons ask whether I would like to have a closer and more personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This, even though I had told them that I was already Christian and believe in Jesus Christ. What came next was talks about how a prophet in America named Joseph Smith established the true church of God, with the sole authority to administer forgiveness of sins on earth. I asked the Mormons why they regard Joseph Smith as speaking the truth. They described the account of Joseph Smith and his encounter with God in his prayers in which he asked which is the true church of God on earth, with God replying him that none of the churches on earth is true. I probed them further about why they should believe whatever Joseph Smith says. They came to a concluding remark that this is something which one can confirm by asking God, and cite James 1:5 on how one can receive wisdom by asking God.

I suppose I kind of expected the answers that they had to give. And I doubt that I would be able to give any conclusive rebuttal to whatever they are saying. All I can hope to do is to draw out doubts.

As I recount my encounter with the Mormons, I also reflect about my Christian faith. How far is Christianity similar or different to Mormonism? Is there a double standard in the way in which I express skepticism about Mormonism as compared to with Christianity? I am put off by the Mormon’s claim of exclusivity to have the sole authority of God on earth as a church, but I figure that the exclusivity of Christianity in proclaiming a belief in Jesus as the sole means to salvation could similarly be off-putting to people of other religions. The Mormon’s prod to take a step of faith to believing would also be similar to how Christians would prod a nonbeliever. Also if you should ask for a sign as proof, the Mormon would assert that faith is believing what you cannot see, and quite a number of Christian would also use that as a reply should a nonbeliever ask them for a sign. In likewise fashion, a Mormon would instruct a non-Mormon to seek wisdom from the Holy Spirit or God to know the truth, as would quite a number of Christians to a non-believer.

I wonder then what would be the superiority of mainstream Christianity over Mormonism. I suppose a Christian may argue that there is more credentials and testimonial witnesses to the historical account of Jesus and his claims than for the claims of Joseph Smith. I also suppose that a Christian may argue that Jesus did signs and miracles in his time on earth to prove his authority as God, but I suppose a Mormon may claim likewise about Joseph Smith. Sometimes though, I wonder how far signs and miracles are conclusive of a person’s divinity or divine authority. Can’t Satan and demons do wonders and miracles as well? Some Christians may very well charge a nonbeliever for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for questioning whether the signs and miracles of Jesus are that of God. But I suppose a Mormon can very well lay the same charge on someone who questions the works or miracles of Joseph Smith.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Law IV 2015

I watched the Law IV concert on Saturday last week. The Law IV concert is an annual concert produced by the graduating batch of the law cohort at the National University of Singapore. I would have been in this year’s graduating batch if I had not taken my medical leave of absence, so I do know recognize most of the cast for the concert production. I wasn’t participating as part of the cast for the concert, but I did help out a little in the sponsorship team. This theme for this year’s Law IV concert is in commemoration of Singapore’s jubilee 50th year of independence.

The timeline of the story is set in the era of the 1960s or 1970s. The main plot revolves around the implementing of the suitability certificate for university admission by the government in order to deter communist influences within the university. There are some information about the suitability certificate on the Law IV production website here. The suitability certificate was introduced by the British pre-independence, but was kept by the local government until the late 1970’s. In the fictional account portrayed in the concert, a boy named Ah Seng was unable to get into university because of the communist background of his parents. He comes from a humble background, supported by his sister, Ah Mui, who runs a food stall at Great World City selling the local noodle dish, Mee Pok. Their parents were either detained, or deported by the government, or had already died.

A student at the university named Ah Hock, decided to organize a peaceful protest in the school campus. Ah Hock is a capable and popular guy in campus who had secured a scholarship to study in Singapore from Malaysia. He was also the President of the student committee. The protest was indeed a historical incident, and took place at the upper quad, which is part of the current law faculty which I am now studying at. Ah Hock was also in love with the Ah Mui, the sister of Ah Seng. I am not sure how they initially encountered each other because I was 20 minutes late for the concert, , but I presume that they must have met when Ah Hock ordered from Ah Mui’s Mee Pok stall. Anyway, Ah Seng decided to join in the protest organized by Ah Hock. The protest was sabotaged by another student named Richard who called in the police alleging the protest was organized by communists. Richard came from an affluent background, whose family owned the Great World City. He was particularly jealous of Ah Hock for being more popular than he was, and thereby sought to ruin him by calling in the police at the protest. He was also, in what would seem rather unlikely, best friend with Ah Seng, whom he was a childhood friend with. Because of the clampdown on the protest by the police, Ah Seng was caught by the police and detained in prison. Richard was remorse about his act, and offered evidence about his false allegation to the police, and Ah Seng was released.

Ah Hock’s scholarship was thereafter revoked for the protest he organized. He was not able to say goodbye to Ah Mui because she wasn’t around at her stall when he came by, and he thought she was angry at him for including her brother Ah Seng in the protest. The epilogue of the story shows Ah Seng helping out her sister with the Mee Pok business, which had expanded and become very successful. A radio announcement was heard overhead announcing the end of the suitability certificate policy. When asked by the friendly neighboring Malay stallholder whether he intends to go back to study now since the end of the suitability certificate, Ah Seng replied that his priority is with his fledging Mee Pok business. Throughout the scene, an unidentified person sat at a stall table with his face covered by the newspaper he was reading. When Ah Mui went up to the person to ask for orders, the person slowly lowers the newspaper, revealing that it is Ah Hock, who casually replied for a bowl of Mee Pok.

During the credit stage of the concert, Professor Tommy Koh, who was in the audience was invited up by the producer of the concert to speak. Professor Tommy Koh, who was then dean of the law faculty, had personally advised the student organizers of the protest to avoid confrontation with the authorities and confine the protest to the school campus. In the actual historical event, the police did not clampdown on the protest, but the authorities threatened to do so if the protest took place in the public. According to Professor Tommy Koh, some prominent Singaporeans, such as Kishore Mahbubani, current dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, was part of the protest against the suitability certificate. In Professor Tommy Koh’s concluding remarks, he thanked the concert producers for aptly portraying the dark side of Singapore history along with its happier side for this jubilee year concert.

I wonder whether the suitability certificate was really a necessary policy, or whether it was too draconian. I wouldn’t want to be too critical of it, especially since communism was deemed to be a particular threat then. But it would seem harsh to me if people like Ah Seng could not get into university because his parents had communist affiliations. I would think that the purpose of the suitability certificate would be to deter admission of students who had strong communist affiliations themselves. So I don’t think it would be fair to simply characterize the suitability certificate as an infringement on academic freedom or freedom of speech. There are probably national security at stake as well, considering that communist students from other schools had created public disorder by starting riots against the government.


Search This Blog