Sunday, August 17, 2008

The whole idea is to provide an extraordinary experience that is very exclusive and original

Dinner in the sky, anyone?

Sunday August 17, 2008


Let us introduce you to the latest dining craze to sweep Europe: a meal up high. Really high.

GASTRONOMY has reached new heights – literally! Imagine digging into your foie gras while suspended 50m in the air and looking upon, say, the dramatic Eiffel Tower or the breathtaking old city of Istanbul at sunset.

This intriguing experience called Dinner in the Sky was created by Belgian events management company The Fun Group and creative agency Hakuna Matata, partnering with Benji Fun, a Belgian company specialising in organising fun and crazy events.

With an emphasis on crazy! How on earth did this strange idea come about, we wondered, and shot off an e-mail to the address at the website, Concept director David Ghysels replies, saying the whole thing came about almost by accident in May 2006.

Istanbul, one of the world’s most breathtaking cities, is a gorgeous enough location by itself for a meal – imagine if you were suspended in the air over the city and looking across the Bosphorus Strait that stands between the Asian and European continents! – Photos from Dinner in the Sky

“The Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe Association (Paris-based association of Europe’s top young restaurateurs) wanted to communicate that they were the ‘Gastronomy at the top’ so we gave them that, literally.

“The whole idea is to provide an extraordinary experience that is very exclusive and original.”

Ghysel’s daughter Elisa was one of the lucky ones that had that original experience when she blew out the 11 candles on her birthday cake at the first dinner in the sky on April 24, 2006, in Brussels.

The idea caught on quickly and Dinner in the Sky events have been held all over Europe as well as in Canada, America, Dubai, and South Africa.

Not just dinners, either: VIP events, champagne breakfasts, cocktails, and even meetings have been organised. Also, I can imagine this would be a godsend for celebrities trying to escape ever-present paparazzi – surely their privacy will be secure up in the sky!

You don’t need expansive outdoor spaces; a meal up among the skyscrapers is possible, too. This was in Canada’s largest city, Toronto.

And yes, Ghysels says numerous enquiries have flooded in from Asian countries.

“A group of Thai businessmen has been invited by Chivas (the premium whisky producer) to a gourmet dinner prepared by Le Mess in Brussels to evaluate this idea. We are certain an Asian nation will be hosting a Dinner in the Sky by the end of this year!”

The dining platform, which measures 9m x 5m, easily accommodates a waiter and three chefs in the central well. Catering is not included in the price but, of course, a client will rope in only the very best restaurants for a meal that would surely be a once in a lifetime experience.

Ghysels says Dinner in the Sky clients have served everything from sushi to lobsters, tapas to the best of French haute cuisine. Open fires are not allowed due to fire and safety regulations but gas barbecues and electrical cooking devices are fine.

How does it all work?

Say you’re the lucky recipient of this unique dinner invitation. You take your place at the beautifully laid table sitting on the platform of a crane – probably in a breathtaking location – and buckle your seat belt. Once everyone’s on board, the entire table will rise slowly into the sky carrying guests, host, chef, waiters, and the food!

The platform can hold up to three chefs in the central well, from which diners can be served or in which chefs can do light cooking that doesn’t require open flame. – Photos courtesy of Dinner in the Sky

The platform can seat 22 people, and each booking lasts eight hours. So, at an average of two sessions per hour, over 350 people will have the chance to enjoy the experience.

Dinner in the Sky events can be organised anywhere, from a golf course or castle to a historical site. All that’s required is a surface of around 500sq m that can be secured and for which the client has authorisation to use.

Not enough fun? Ask for a second crane that can raise a smaller entertainment platform to the same height as the table – you could book anything from a pianist to a live band!

Some of the more memorable events arranged by Dinner in the Sky so far include an evening of fine dining prepared by Alain Passard from the very elite three Michelin starred Parisian restaurant L’ Arpege; this dinner was held in front of the lovely Cathedral of Amiens in northern France.

The lovely Amiens Cathedral, a classic 13th century Gothic church that is a world heritage site in France, makes for a memorable backdrop to dinner.

Another two dinners that were out of this world: the one held by the historic Villa Borghese in Rome, and one during which the platform hung over the shore of Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait, the gateway between Asia and Europe.

Such a sensory and gastronomic treat will cost you between €17, 000 and €35, 000 (RM84, 000 and RM173, 000) for each eight-hour session.

Okay, now comes the question I’ve been dying to ask: what happens when one needs to go to the loo?

“About toilet facilities, it’s like in a normal restaurant,” explains Ghysels.

“You ask the waiter where the toilets are, and then you go down. It’s just a bit less discreet because the whole table goes down too – but it takes less than a minute!”

For more information, or to arrange for your own Dinner in the Sky (in which case, please do notify StarMag by e-mailing us at, visit the website at

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Many of you will have questions, for most of which we presently have no answers

Todd Bentley, Wife Separating

The leader of the 'Lakeland Outpouring' is leaving Florida and will reportedly receive counseling.

[08.12.08] In a stunning revelation by his ministry today it was announced that evangelist Todd Bentley, who has led nonstop revival meetings in Lakeland, Fla., since April 2, is separating from his wife, Shonnah, due to “significant friction in their relationship.”

The board of directors at Bentley’s Fresh Fire Ministries released a statement Tuesday afternoon that praised the “outpouring” in Lakeland led by Bentley, but also acknowledged “an atmosphere of fatigue and stress” that more than 100 daily meetings had created, which “exacerbated existing issues in [Bentley’s marriage].”

Though the “outpouring” came with the “blessing and the burden of exponential increases,” the board of directors stressed in the letter that the meetings were not to blame for the break up of Bentley’s marriage. They expressed hope for restoration, but neither promised nor guaranteed it—instead focusing on “growing the Global Outpourings” that have spread via the Internet and GOD TV. “We know that many of you will have questions, for most of which we presently have no answers,” the board members stated.

Bentley has spent most of the last four months away from his home in Abbottsford, B.C., where his wife and three children reside. Shonnah Bentley has flown to Lakeland and has appeared on stage with her husband periodically. The statement released by Fresh Fire Ministries on Tuesday emphasized the separation was not due to infidelity by either spouse.

Stephen Strader, senior pastor at Ignited Church where Bentley’s revival was first sparked, told Charisma the separation was for “a period of time while they both continue to receive counseling.”

Lynn Breidenbach, who until yesterday was a spokesperson on Bentley’s staff, told Charisma on Monday that she had no knowledge of any impending separation between Bentley and his wife and that rumors of such a separation received by Charisma were apparently false. However, according to the Lakeland Ledger, Bentley called a staff meeting later on Monday and acknowledged his plans to separate from his wife.

Bentley did not respond to Charisma’s request for comment. At press time, members of the Revival Alliance, a group made up of prominent charismatic ministers who ordained Bentley as an evangelist in the Lakeland meetings in June, had not yet commented.

According to Strader, Bentley turned over the spiritual authority of the meetings to him last Wednesday—more than two weeks earlier than the August 23 date announced earlier this month. Strader said Bentley’s official departure will occur during this Wednesday night’s meeting in Lakeland, when Bentley is scheduled to thank the crowd, while also “commissioning his interns” to continue the revival. —Paul Steven Ghiringhelli

The sad reality that our untempered zeal is a sign of immaturity

Life After Lakeland: Sorting Out the Confusion

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Todd Bentley’s announcement that his marriage is ending has thrown – our movement into a tailspin and questions need to be answered

It was not supposed to end like this.

Evangelist Todd Bentley had heralded the Lakeland revival as the greatest Pentecostal outpouring since Azusa Street. From his stage in a gigantic tent in Florida, Bentley preached to thousands, bringing many of them to the stage for prayer. Many claimed to be healed of deafness, blindness, heart problems, depression and dozens of other conditions in the Lakeland services, which ran for more than 100 consecutive nights. Bentley announced confidently that dozens of people had been raised from the dead during the revival.

But this week, a few days after the Canadian preacher announced the end of his visits to Lakeland, he told his staff that his marriage is ending. Without blaming the pace of the revival for Bentley’s personal problems, his board released a public statement saying that he and his wife, Shonnah, are separating. The news shocked Bentley’s adoring fans and saddened those who have questioned his credibility since the Lakeland movement erupted in early April.

I’m sad. I’m disappointed. And I’m angry. Here are few of my many, many questions about this fiasco:

Why did so many people flock to Lakeland from around the world to rally behind an evangelist who had serious credibility issues from the beginning?

To put it bluntly, we’re just plain gullible.

From the first week of the Lakeland revival, many discerning Christians raised questions about Bentley’s beliefs and practices. They felt uneasy when he said he talked to an angel in his hotel room. They sensed something amiss when he wore a T-shirt with a skeleton on it. They wondered why a man of God would cover himself with tattoos. They were horrified when they heard him describe how he tackled a man and knocked his tooth out during prayer.

But among those who jumped on the Lakeland bandwagon, discernment was discouraged. They were expected to swallow and follow. The message was clear: “This is God. Don’t question.” So before we could all say, “Sheeka Boomba” (as Bentley often prayed from his pulpit), many people went home, prayed for people and shoved them to the floor with reckless abandon, Bentley-style.

I blame this lack of discernment, partly, on raw zeal for God. We’re spiritual hungry—which can be a good thing. But sometimes, hungry people will eat anything.

Many of us would rather watch a noisy demonstration of miracles, signs and wonders than have a quiet Bible study. Yet we are faced today with the sad reality that our untempered zeal is a sign of immaturity. Our adolescent craving for the wild and crazy makes us do stupid things. It’s way past time for us to grow up.

Why didn’t anyone in Lakeland denounce the favorable comments Bentley made about William Branham?

This one baffles me. Branham embraced horrible deception near the end of his ministry, before he died in 1965. He claimed that he was the reincarnation of Elijah—and his strange doctrines are still embraced by a cultlike following today. When Bentley announced to the world that the same angel that ushered in the 1950s healing revival had come to Lakeland, the entire audience should have run for the exits.

Why didn’t anyone correct this error from the pulpit? Godly leaders are supposed to protect the sheep from heresy, not spoon feed deception to them. Only God knows how far this poison traveled from Lakeland to take root elsewhere. May God forgive us for allowing His Word to be so flippantly contaminated.

A prominent Pentecostal evangelist called me this week after Bentley’s news hit the fan. He said to me: “I’m now convinced that a large segment of the charismatic church will follow the anti-Christ when he shows up because they have no discernment.” Ouch. Hopefully we’ll learn our lesson this time and apply the necessary caution when an imposter shows up.

Why did God TV tell people that “any criticism of Todd Bentley is demonic”?

This ridiculous statement was actually made on one of God TV’s pre-shows. In fact, the network’s hosts also warned listeners that if they listened to criticism of Bentley, they could lose their healings.

This is cultic manipulation at its worst. The Bible tells us that the Bereans were noble believers because they studied the Scriptures daily “to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11, NASB). Yet in the case of Lakeland, honest intellectual inquiry was viewed as a sign of weakness. People were expected to jump first and then open their eyes.

Just because we believe in the power of the Holy Spirit does not mean we check our brains at the church door. We are commanded to test the spirits. Jesus wants us to love Him with our hearts and our minds.

Because of the Lakeland scandal, there may be large numbers of people who feel they’ve been burned by Bentley. Some may give up on church and join the growing ranks of bitter, disenfranchised Christians. Others may suffer total spiritual shipwreck. This could have been avoided if leaders had been more vocal about their objections and urged people to evaluate spiritual experiences through the filter of God’s Word.

Why did a group of respected ministers lay hands on Bentley on June 23 and publicly ordain him? Did they know of his personal problems?

This controversial ceremony was organized by Peter Wagner, who felt that one of Bentley’s greatest needs was proper spiritual covering. He asked California pastors Che Ahn and Bill Johnson, along with Canadian pastor John Arnott, to lay hands on Bentley and bring him under their care.

Bentley certainly needs such covering. No one in ministry today should be out on their own, living in isolation without checks, balances and wise counsel. It was commendable that Wagner reached out to Bentley and that Bentley acknowledged his need for spiritual fathers by agreeing to submit to the process. The question remains, however, whether it was wise to commend Bentley during a televised commissioning service that at times seemed more like a king’s coronation.

In hindsight, we can all see that it would have been better to take Bentley into a back room and talk about his personal issues.

The Bible tells us that ordination of a minister is a sober responsibility. Paul wrote: “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others” (1 Tim. 5:22). We might be tempted to rush the process, but the apostle warned against fast-tracking ordination—and he said that those who commission a minister who is not ready for the job will bear some of the blame for his failures.

I trust that Wagner, Ahn, Johnson and Arnott didn’t know of Bentley’s problems before they ordained him. I am sure they are saddened by the events of this week and are reaching out to Bentley and his wife to promote healing and restoration. But I believe that they, along with Bentley and the owners of God TV, owe the body of Christ a forthright, public apology for thrusting Bentley’s ministry into the spotlight prematurely. (Perhaps such an apology should be aired on God TV.)

Can anything good come out of this?

That depends on how people respond. If the men assigned to oversee Bentley offer loving but firm correction, and if Bentley responds humbly to the process by stepping out of ministry for a season of rehabilitation, we could witness a healthy case of church discipline play out the way it is supposed to. If all those who were so eager to promote Bentley now rush just as fast to repent for their errors in judgment, then the rest of us could breathe a huge sigh of relief—and the credibility of our movement could be restored.

I still believe that God desires to visit our nation in supernatural power. I know He wants to heal multitudes, and I will continue praying for a healing revival to sweep across the United States. But we must contend for the genuine, not an imitation. True revival will be accompanied by brokenness, humility, reverence and repentance—not the arrogance, showmanship and empty hype that often was on display in Lakeland.

We are weathering an unprecedented season of moral failure and spiritual compromise in our nation today. I urge everyone in the charismatic world to pray for Bentley; his wife, Shonnah; his three young children; Bentley’s ministry staff; and the men and women who serve as his counselors and advisers. Let’s pray that God will turn this embarrassing debacle into an opportunity for miraculous restoration.

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Singapore Health Ministry recorded 11,933 abortions last year

Why more and more women opt for abortions in Singapore

Tuesday August 12, 2008

WORK commitments, needing to take holidays and wishing to stay slim – these are among the reasons why Singaporean women opt to have abortions, Sin Chew Daily reported.

The Singapore Health Ministry recorded 11,933 abortions last year.

A clinic doctor, identified only as Dr Ho, was quoted as saying that at least three women approached her weekly to obtain a recommendation letter for a subsidised abortion fee.

KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital medical volunteers and social workers chief Hong Li Ming said the hospital provided counselling to these women and 35% were single women between the ages of 16 and 21.

Gleneagles Hospital obstetrics and gynaecology specialist Dr Chong Yew Luen said he only provided counselling to those intending to have an abortion.

His youngest patient was 12 years old.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Experts tell us there are about 27 million people in our world who live literally in slavery

Making God's Goodness Believable in a World of Pain

The most difficult thing for people to believe about the Christian faith is simply the idea that God is good because there are so many people in pain, says an attorney from a highly visible human rights agency.

Fri, Aug. 08, 2008 Posted: 09:16 AM EDT

FAIRFAX, Va. – The most difficult thing for people to believe about the Christian faith is simply the idea that God is good because there are so many people in pain, says an attorney from a highly visible human rights agency.

With families in slavery, children abandoned, girls forced into prostitution, and many jailed without charge, Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission asks, "How are these people supposed to believe that God is good?"

Haugen, who was addressing thousands of church and business leaders at Willow Creek Association's Leadership Summit in South Barrington, Ill., on Thursday, touched on a notion that has been a stumbling block for many around the world when exploring the Christian faith.

As many theologians have identified, it's one of the biggest objections people have about Christianity – why God would allow so much suffering in the world if He is good and all powerful.

But God does have a plan "for making it believable that He is good" amid the widespread suffering, according to Haugen.

"Turns out that we're the plan," he said. "And God doesn't have another plan."

For over a decade now, Haugen has headed International Justice Mission to fight injustice in the form of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression, mainly overseas.

While suffering exists across the globe, Haugen places victims of injustice, or intentional abuse, in another category.

He defines injustice as it is described in the Bible – the abuse of power; the taking from other people the good things that God intended for them; the taking of other people's life, liberty, dignity and the fruit of their love and labor; and the stronger abusing their power to take from those who are weaker.

"Experts tell us there are about 27 million people in our world who live literally in slavery," Haugen informed the tens of thousands of leaders listening in South Barrington and in cities across North America via satellite. "Question is ‘How are they supposed to believe that God is good?’"

"UNICEF says about 2 million children are held in forced prostitution ... How are they supposed to believe that God is good?"

Having passionately taken up the mission of justice for years, Haugen believes God wants the people in pain to know that He is good. And His plan for revealing His goodness and the work of justice are those whom God has called.

"We're the plan," he told attendees at Leadership Summit.

Executing the plan, however, isn't easy. With 14 field offices overseas, International Justice Mission staff often endure death threats and assaults when fighting injustice.

Meanwhile, Haugen finds many Christians today comfortable in mediocrity and in "staying safe."

"Effective leadership comes from choosing not to be safe," Haugen said. He urged leaders to take their congregations or staff on a more "demanding climb where it's unsafe without God."

"On that journey, people you are leading will run to God, or they'll stop pretending," he poignantly said.

"My prayer for us is in a world with so much suffering that God would ... rescue us from all things petty ... and lead us with courage into a world that's yearning to know the goodness of God through us."

Thursday marked the first day of this year’s highly prominent Willow Creek Leadership Summit which will feature a world-class line-up of guests and speakers, including Chuck Colson, chairman and founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of; Brad Anderson, vice-chairman and CEO of Best Buy, Inc.; and Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, where the summit is being broadcast live over the course of two days to more than 140 locations across America.

The annual gathering, one of the world's most premier leadership training events, is now in its 13th year.

On the Web:

List of Summit Sites at

Lillian Kwon
Christian Post Reporter

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The best way you can bless your church is to make investment in yourself

Christian Leadership Summit Encourages 60,000 to Invest in Themselves

This year’s Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Community Church has drawn over 6,000 to the Chicago-area megachurch and over 50,000 others around the world who have been watching the live broadcast of one of the world’s most premier leadership training events.

Fri, Aug. 08, 2008 Posted: 12:34 PM EDT

SOUTH BARRINGTON, Ill. – This year’s Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Community Church has drawn over 6,000 to the Chicago-area megachurch and over 50,000 others around the world who have been watching the live broadcast of one of the world’s most premier leadership training events.

Some 60,000 people have registered for The Leadership Summit in hopes of spending two days to greatly improve as leaders. The summit, which kicked off Thursday, has been a self-investment opportunity for many leaders who are usually too tied up with serving others to make the time to regain vision and fine-tune their leading skills.

According to the Rev. Bill Hybels, Willow Creek’s founder and the senior pastor, leaders should take time invest in themselves in order to help their church.

“Everybody wins when you improve as a leader,” said Hybels on Thursday during the summit’s opening session, titled “The High Drama of Decision Making.”

“And sometimes the best way you can bless your church is to make investment in yourself,” he added.

The Willow Creek Association (WCA), host of the Leadership Summit, is a growing multi-denominational worldwide network of more than 12,000 churches from 90 denominations and 45 countries. Since 1992, the WCA has been working to link like-minded, action-oriented churches with each other and with strategic vision, training, and resource.

Its annual Leadership Summit, which has been held for the past 13 years, is being broadcast live to at least 117 locations across America and features a world-class line-up of guests and speakers, including Chuck Colson, chairman and founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of; and Brad Anderson, vice-chairman and CEO of Best Buy.

This year’s summit was designed to hold total of nine sessions over the course of two days with topics ranging from "Leading in New Cultural Realities" and "How Leaders Can Get IT and Keep IT" to "Defending the Faith" and "Risk Taking, Barrier Breaking Bold Leadership."

In his opening session, Hybels, who recently released his new book, “Axiom,” emphasized the importance and effectiveness of axioms or proverbs and encouraged leaders to utilize them.

“Some leaders, not only have a framework, but they also learned how to condense … questions and wisdom of all their past decisions and compress them into sub-composed leadership proverbs, or sayings, or axioms that give them focused counsel, or ‘microwave wisdom,’ for their upcoming decision,” the megachurch pastor said.

Hybels challenged the attending leaders to compose their own axioms, which “[w]ould add so much to the efficiency and effectiveness and clarity of [their] decision making.”

On Friday, summit attendants are expected to hear again from Hybels as well as pastor Craig Groeschel, evangelical leader Chuck Colson, and BestBuy CEO Brad Anderson. A one-on-one live interview with Catherine Rhor, CEO and founder of the nonprofit Prison Entrepreneurship Program, will also be featured as well as a Q&A session that will be hosted at the summit for the first time ever.

The event ends Friday at 5:30 p.m. CT.

Jonathan Park
Christian Post Correspondent

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The genius of the Christian movement through history is its acceptance of cultural and linguistic diversity

Missions and the Translatable Gospel

by John B. Carman

John B. Carman is Parkman professor of divinity and professor of comparative religion at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This article appeared in the Christian Century, August 30-September 6, 1989, p. 786. Copyright by the Christian Century Foundation and used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.

Book Review:
Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture, by Lamin Sanneh. Orbis, 310 pp., $17.95 paperback.

Whether they approve or disapprove, both Christian theologians and secular historians tend to understand missions as the exporting of Western Christianity to the Third World. Lamin Sanneh, professor of missions and world Christianity at Yale Divinity School, challenges that interpretation with an exciting new story of Christian mission and a provocative analysis of the role of translation in that mission. The central historical focus of Translating the Message is Christianity’s rapid spread in Africa during the past century and a half, but its distinctive interpretation has implications for all Christian mission and for a general Christian theology of culture. Moreover, this book makes a promising beginning in the comparative study of mission in Christianity and Islam.

Sanneh maintains that when first-century Christians translated their sacred texts into Greek they began a process by which the Christian message was repeatedly restated in new linguistic and cultural forms. This process both recognized the worth of each language employed and limited or relativized the significance of each cultural medium. Although particular denominations have resisted any further translation out of what for them was and is the sacred language (particularly in the case of the Bible and the central liturgy) , the impulse to translate has always reasserted itself. No matter how culturally parochial or politically imperialistic the missionary agents of the gospel have been, to the extent they have recognized and utilized the built-in Christian strategy of translation they have stood in the margins of the process and elevated the status of the culture into whose language the translation has been made.

Sanneh argues against the theory that "mission was the surrogate of Western colonialism and that . . . together these two movements combined to destroy indigenous cultures." African Christians, reading the Bible and reflecting on its message in their own languages, have tended "to question, and sometimes to renounce, the Western presuppositions of the church." Moreover, the languages and cultures into which the Christian message has been translated have been invigorated, not destroyed. The genius of the Christian movement through history is its acceptance of cultural and linguistic diversity. This process has great risks, for the diversity has repeatedly threatened the unity of the worldwide Christian community, and translation has "made Christianity vulnerable to secular influences and to the threat of polytheism."

Islam faces the opposite problem. It has succeeded in large-scale missionary expansion without sanctioning the translation out of Arabic of its Scripture or its communal prayers -- a bond of unity and a source of great strength for Islam. Forbidding the Qur’an’s translation does, however, deny sacred significance to other languages, many of which have not flourished when Islam has been dominant in a culture. Aspects of popular Islam that are expressed in the vernacular are repeatedly criticized by reform movements, which are unable on Islamic principles to appreciate vernacular expressions of Muslim piety.

Sanneh believes that both Christian and Muslim mission have a concept of sacred language, but that these concepts are diametrically opposed. Muslims consider Arabic

a revealed language . . . the medium in
which the Qur’an . . . was revealed.
. . . The author of the Qur’an who is God,
thus came to be associated with its speech,
so that the very sounds of the language are
believed to originate in heaven. . . . Consequently,
Muslims have instituted the sacred Arabic
for the canonical devotions . . . [bringing] the sacred
Arabic to the level of the ordinary believer.

In contrast, "translatability became the characteristic mode of Christian expansion through history. Christianity has no single revealed language, and historical experience traces this fact to the Pentecost event when the believers testified of God in their native tongues." But after translation into Greek, Sanneh argues, second- and third-century Christians so identified with the norms of Hellenistic culture that they turned their backs on the principle that justified "the Gentile breakthrough": "The timeless logos of the Greeks was substituted for the historical Jesus."

When missionaries among the Slavs and Germans tried to use languages other than Latin, they were opposed by who claimed "that the liturgy could be performed only in the three ancient languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, on the grounds that Pilate had used these to compose the inscription placed on the cross of Christ." In the end a compromise was reached: the Bible and the mass could be read (recited) only in Latin, but preaching and teaching was done in the vernacular.

Even this compromise was sometimes challenged (in Moravia and in England) and later the issue of vernacular translation contributed to the Reformation. In post-Reformation Roman Catholic missions, the compromise was continued (with respect to the mass it did so right up to the Second Vatican Council). In the 16th-century Spanish colonies in Latin America and the Philippines, Catholic missionaries defied the Spanish government’s order to give all religious instruction in Castilian, insisting on using the local languages. Sanneh notes other instances in which Roman Catholic missions, while retaining Latin as the language of Scripture and liturgy, have utilized local languages, cultures and artistic symbols.

Sanneh presents two alternative mission strategies: One is "mission by diffusion," making "the missionary culture the inseparable carrier of the message. . . . Religion expands from its initial cultural base and is implanted in other societies primarily as a matter of cultural identity. Islam . . . exemplifies this mode of mission." The other is "mission by translation," making "the recipient culture the true and final locus of the proclamation, so that the religion arrives without the presumption of cultural rejection. . . Conversion that takes place in mission as translation rests on the conviction that might be produced in people after conscious critical reflection." Sanneh admits that these alternative paths are not always separate or easy to untangle. "In the Jerusalem church it is obvious that most of the disciples thought at first primarily in terms of cultural diffusion."

Sanneh concedes that from the beginning, Christian history has included both mission by translation and mission by diffusion. Yet he is sure that translation is "the vintage mark of Christianity." Sanneh needs to separate this theological conclusion from the amply documented historical judgment that translation is one important medium and translatability one important principle in Christian mission. This historical judgment is crucial for Sanneh’s argument with secular historians. While "at its most self-conscious stage, mission coincided with Western colonialism," history reveals that Christianity was more than an expression of Western colonial power. Early on, Christianity in Africa began to diverge from interests of European colonial administrators. The Protestant emphasis on the primacy of the Bible, a Bible translated into the language of its local hearers and readers, took away primary authority from the missionary and gave it to an indigenous church that could be proud of its own language and culture. This is the logic of translatability, which worked against the quite conscious efforts of Western missionaries to assert their theological or moral authority or their often less conscious and more ambivalent relations to Western rulers and businesses.

The pioneer missionaries and Bible translators not only found names they considered appropriate equivalents for ho theos in the New Testament, but simultaneously concluded that "Africans had heard of God, described God most eloquently, and maintained towards God proper attitudes of reverence, Worship, and sacrifice." Moreover, many Africans concluded from "the missionary adoption of vernacular categories for the Scriptures" that the God of the ancestors could be assimilated into the God of the Bible. The jealous "God" of missionary preaching had to be spoken of with names for "God" in Africa, where "God was a hospitable deity who was approached through the mediation of lesser deities."

There is a striking irony in the situation of those missionaries who arrived quite sure that Africans had not yet heard of God. In order to translate the Scriptures or to preach a sermon they had to ask people the name for God in their language. Sanneh recounts anecdotes showing that the humor in that situation was not lost on the prospective converts. This missionary attitude, however, also elicits one of his sharpest criticisms.

Missionaries should have been pleased when they came upon evidence that God had preceded them, and that Africans possessed profound faith in the divine providence. . Instead, the missionaries appear to have been surprised, even antagonized, by examples of faithfulness, hospitality, and forgiveness. . . Faced with this bewildering situation, Africans began earnestly to inquire into the Christian Scripture, which missionaries had placed in their hands, to see where they had misunderstood the gospel. What they learned convinced them that mission as European cultural hegemony was a catastrophic departure from the Bible. . . They went on to claim the gospel, as the missionaries wished them to, but in turn insisted that missionary attitudes should continue to be scrutinized in its revealing light.

For Sanneh, translation both assumes and confirms divine preparation preceding the missionary. "Nowhere else were missionaries more anticipated than in the field of scriptural translation . . [where] we find evidence of deep and long preparation, in the tools of language as in the habits of worship and conduct, and in the venerable customs of the forebears." The truth that God is the ground of existence is one "whose sparks are entrusted to all living cultures and which the light of the gospel will rekindle into a living flame." This divine preparation for the gospel in all cultures is one theological sanction for translating the gospel into all languages. Another is confidence that the Holy Spirit will work through the translation, repeating the miracle of Pentecost, enabling all peoples to understand God’s message in their own languages.

These theological positions belong on one side of what Sanneh regards as his combination of "the theological and the historical methods to describe translatability as a religious theme." On the historical side, he devotes his final chapter to comparing Christian and Islamic mission "not primarily to judge but to elucidate their distinctive attitudes to translatability."

Sanneh’s comparison is an important step for comparative missiology, a comparison of missionary efforts in world religions, including their attitudes toward translation. Translation study is also a significant development for comparative religion, because it studies how religious communities are related in actual encounter. Third, it provides a background for Christians who are sometimes asked to give up the missionary dimension of their faith when entering into interreligious dialogue. (Even if we were willing to do so, we have no reason to assume that either Muslim or Buddhist would follow suit.)

Precisely because this comparative missiology would not make one’s "own evaluative judgments the standard of comparison," it is necessary to include in any comparison similarity as well as contrast. For Sanneh no doubt this is self-evident. His own personal journey from Islam to Christianity has not turned him against his Islamic heritage. Rather, his study of Islam after becoming a Christian includes a doctoral dissertation on the distinctive West African Islamic tradition in which he was raised, and his own statement about the "monotheist core of the gospel" that Christianity owed to its Judaic heritage has not only a rather Islamic ring, but also the explicit recognition that "both religions share this heritage with Islam."

Sanneh sometimes gives the impression, however, not only that translatability is the valid principle of Christian mission, but that cultural absolutism or cultural diffusion is both sub-Christian and inimical to cultural development. While this is a possible theological assessment, a historical comparison of Christianity and Islam needs to include the Christian instances of cultural diffusion. As Sanneh himself notes, there have been many refusals to translate in the history of Christian mission.

In a theological assessment of Christian missionary strategies, moreover, I question whether cultural diffusion and ‘translation need be antithetical. The notion of an untranslatable Scripture is connected with a conviction of divine revelation in particular persons, events and institutions. While the original language of the Scripture, of the temple cult and of much scholarly debate was Hebrew, the language of the marketplace was Aramaic. Outside Palestine many Jews used Greek in their homes and recited the Greek translation of the Hebrew sacred writings. What in modern terms would be called Jewish culture was believed to be the same, whether the Scripture was read in Hebrew or in Greek. The first gentile Christians inherited this culture of religious beliefs and practices, and it made concrete their claim to be part of God’s chosen people.

Subsequently, many Christian communities have also claimed to be God’s chosen people. Many such communities have insisted that foreigners who hear the gospel from them should accept their particular cultural version of the gospel as the embodiment of the authentic Christian tradition. is such a claim justified? At the very least, surely, the principle of translatability should serve as a powerful deterrent to the tendency of any national church to absolutize its form of Christian faith.

We can admit, however, that what each "Christian culture" tries to embody is the total inheritance of Christian tradition, and it is this tradition that its missionary representatives have sought to pass on. It is certainly true that church history often appears to be more a record of Christian unfaithfulness than a deposit of faith. But even a record of mistakes can be a salutary lesson for a new Christian community; and there also in that history a record of courageous attempts to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit.

Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians and Muslims should explore together their understandings of God’s mission to the world in a comparative inquiry that is dialogical as well as historical. Cultural diffusion is understood from inside as honoring a sacred language and customs chosen to convey God’s word and upholding a body of custom developed in obedience to the specifics of God’s word. Both approaches to mission assume that religion is expressed through culture but also transcends and transforms culture, and both approaches must wrestle with the particularity and universality of God’s saving Word.

Modern Protestant mission has, in fact, emphasized both translation and the forming of converts in a Christian culture brought in from outside, a culture stamped with a particular Western culture and often, in "higher" education, communicated through a particular Western language. A familiar controversy in 19th-century Protestant mission policy in India illustrates this fact. A generation after William Carey and the other Serampore missionaries enlisted the assistance of many Hindu scholars in translating the Bible into the major Indian languages, Alexander Duff proposed a different approach to evangelism: education in English. Not only would the Christian values embodied in English literature attract high-caste Hindus to Christ, it was claimed, but the teaching of modern science would undermine Hindus’ faith in their own religion.

As it turned out, both Carey’s approach and Duff’s "cultural diffusion" approach have had great consequences in India’s history, though neither succeeded in the common aim of "winning India to Christ." The translators helped to stimulate many Indian languages, in some cases initiating prose literature and laying the groundwork for a renaissance of regional cultures. English education became modern Indians’ distinctive mark, giving them an exceptional opening into Western culture. In most Christian missions, primary education was done in Indian languages and more advanced education in English. For many Indians, a bifurcation of culture took place, one that is quite apparent among educated Indian Christians. If British missionary societies had made the opposite decision, opting for Carey’s approach over Duff’s, Indian Christian theology might be very different from what it is today, possibly much more separated from the modern West and much closer to the idiom of regional Indian cultures.

Sanneh is one of a small number of scholars who are historians of religion and theologians at the same time. His work offers us a more accurate historical picture of Christian translation, and his theological interpretation can make Christian mission both more faithful to the truth and more respectful of other cultures.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Love thine enemy

Top Hamas leader’s son converts to Christianity

by Ethan Cole, Christian Post
Posted: Tuesday, August 5, 2008, 9:22 (BST)

The son of a top Hamas leader has converted to Christianity and prays some day his family will also accept Jesus Christ as their saviour, according to an Israeli newspaper.

Masab Yousef, son of West Bank Hamas leader Sheik Hassan Yousef, revealed for the first time in an exclusive interview with Haaretz newspaper that he has left Islam and is now a Christian. Prior to the interview’s publication last Thursday, Yousef’s family did not know of his faith conversion even though he is in regular contact with them.

“[T]his interview will open many people's eyes, it will shake Islam from the roots, and I'm not exaggerating,” said Yousef, who now resides in the United States. “What other case do you know where a son of a Hamas leader, who was raised on the tenets of extremist Islam, comes out against it?”

Yousef, who is now 30-years-old, was first exposed to Christianity eight years ago while in Jerusalem, where out of curiosity he accepted an invitation to hear about Christianity. Afterwards, he became “enthusiastic” about what he heard and would secretly read the Bible every day.

“A verse like ‘Love thine enemy’ had a great influence on me,” Yousef recalled. “At this stage I was still a Muslim and I thought that I would remain one. But every day I saw the terrible things done in the name of religion by those who considered themselves ‘great believers’.

“I studied Islam more thoroughly and found no answers there. I re-examined the Koran and the principals of the faith and found how it is mistaken and misleading.”

But with Christianity, Yousef said he could understand God as revealed through Jesus Christ. He said he could talk about God and Jesus for days, but Muslims are not able to say anything about God.

“I consider Islam a big lie,” said Yousef. “The people who supposedly represent the religion admired Mohammed more than God, killed innocent people in the name of Islam, beat their wives and don’t have any idea what God is.

“I have no doubt that they’ll go to hell. I have a message for them: There is only one way to paradise – the way of Jesus who sacrificed himself on the cross for all of us.”

Four years ago, Yousef decided to convert to Christianity but did not let his family know. He still helped his father with his political activities, and his father only knew his son had Christian friends.

“I felt responsible. It was better for me to be there rather than a gang of fools who would poison his mind,” Yousef explained. “I tried to understand those people, their thoughts, in order to change them from inside by means of a strong person like my father, who admitted to me in the past that he does not support suicide attacks.”

Yousef described his father as a moderate Hamas leader.

But even before his encounter with Christianity, Yousef had already become disenchanted with Hamas and Islam after being imprisoned at the age of 18 years old for heading a youth Islamic movement at his high school.

He described the Hamas leaders he met in prison as people with “no morals” and “no integrity”, although they hide their corruption better than Fatah party members.

“Nobody knows them and how they operate as well as I do,” Yousef said, recalling how the family of Hamas members killed by Israel were forced to beg for financial assistance while the leadership “abandoned” them and “wasted” tens of thousands of dollars a month only on security for themselves.

“Then (in prison) I understood that not everyone in Hamas is like my father. He's a nice, friendly man. But I discovered how evil his colleagues are,” Yousef said. “After my release I lost the faith I had in those who ostensibly represented Islam."

Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Israel, and many Western countries. The group has publicly vowed to destroy Israel.

Now Yousef, the eldest son of Sheikh Yousef, says he “admires” Israel.

"You Jews should be aware: You will never, but never have peace with Hamas,” Yousef stated. “Islam, as the ideology that guides them, will not allow them to achieve a peace agreement with the Jews. They believe that tradition says that the Prophet Mohammed fought against the Jews and that therefore they must continue to fight them to the death."

He denounced the “entire” Palestinian society as one that “sanctifies death and the suicide terrorist.

“In Palestinian culture a suicide terrorist becomes a hero, a martyr. Sheiks tell their students about the ‘heroism of the shaheeds (martyr)'.”

Yousef highlighted that Hamas was the first to use suicide bombers as weapons against civilians.

"They (Hamas) are blind and ignorant. It's true, there are good and bad people everywhere, but Hamas supporters don't understand that they are led by a wicked and cruel group that brainwashes the children and gets them to believe that if they carry out a suicide attack they'll get to paradise,” he said.

The Muslim-turned-Christian says he does not think Islam will survive for more than 25 years because the truth about Islam will be exposed given the mass communication available in the modern age.

For his part, Yousef says he hopes to “open the eyes” of Muslims and “reveal the truth” to them about Islam and Christianity with the goal to “take them out of the darkness and the prison of Islam”.

“In that way they'll have an opportunity to correct their mistakes, to become better people and to bring a chance for peace in the Middle East,” he said.

Yousef, who has taken the biblical name of Joseph, said he dreams of one day becoming a writer to tell his personal story and about the Middle East conflicts.

“But at the moment, at least, my ambitions are only to find work, a place to live,” admits Yousef, who left behind properties in Ramallah to find true freedom. “I have no money, I have no apartment.

“I was about to become one of those homeless people [in the United States],” he confessed, “but people from the church are helping me. I'm dependent on them."

He also dreams that some day he can return to his homeland and his family will accept Jesus Christ.

"I know that I'm endangering my life and am even liable to lose my father, but I hope that he'll understand this and that God will give him and my family patience and willingness to open their eyes to Jesus and to Christianity,” Yousef said. “Maybe one day I'll be able to return to Palestine and to Ramallah with Jesus, in the Kingdom of God.”

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The attack was vicious and cruel

Jealousy lands sex worker in London jail

Monday August 4, 2008

PETALING JAYA: A case of jealousy landed a 22-year-old Malaysian prostitute behind bars in London for at least 15 years for the murder of a graduate.

Noor Azura Mohd Yusoff was on Friday convicted by the Old Bailey of killing Xie Xing Xing, 23, who was decapitated while alive and her body dumped in the River Thames in April last year.

Her boyfriend Trach Lon Gian, 27, of London, was also convicted of the murder and jailed a minimum of 22 years.

The court was told that Noor Azura was jealous of Xie and had sent a text message threatening to kill her just days before her death.

In March, Noor Azura returned to her home in New Cross, London, and found Xie taking part in pornography and a cocaine party.

Xie's corpse was found two weeks later in the South Dock Marina in Bermondsey.

Seven weeks later her head was found nearby wrapped in plastic.

“The attack was vicious and cruel. Not only was she stabbed twice in the neck, she was decapitated whilst alive,” judge Giles Forrester had said.

A post-mortem showed 37 separate knife wounds on Xie and her head was cut while she was alive.

A Vietnamese accomplice to the murder is believed to have fled the country.

Police said Xie came from Sichuan, China, and was a good student at Liverpool University.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Segments of society who were highly unlikely to tithe included people under the age of 25,

CULTURE DIGEST: Only 5% of adults tithed last year, Barna survey says
By Erin Roach
May 2, 2008

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The United States is supposedly the most generous nation on the planet, but only 5 percent of American adults donated 10 percent or more of their income to churches and charitable groups last year, according to a study by George Barna's research organization.

Within the randomly selected group of 1,006 adults surveyed, Christians tended to give more than others, The Barna Group said in a news release in mid-April.

"Among the most generous segments were evangelicals (24 percent of whom tithed); conservatives (12 percent); people who had prayed, read the Bible and attended a church service during the past week (12 percent); charismatic or Pentecostal Christians (11 percent); and registered Republicans (10 percent)," Barna said.

The segments of society who were highly unlikely to tithe included people under the age of 25, atheists and agnostics, single adults who have never been married, liberals and adults who make less than $20,000 per year, the research indicated.

Barna explained that the idea of a tithe originated in the Old Testament as the tax that Israelites paid from the produce of the land to support the Levites, to fund Jewish religious festivals and to help the poor. Since the New Testament, Barna said Christians have believed in generous giving but have not necessarily put a number on the percentage expected.

The average amount given to nonprofits by U.S. adults last year was $1,308, Barna reported, and one-third of all adults gave away $1,000 or more. Almost two-thirds of adults donated at least a small amount of money to a place of worship, Barna said, and 96 percent of evangelicals gave money to a church.

One of the key findings Barna noted is a change regarding where Christians choose to give their money. The percentage of evangelical and non-evangelical born-again adults who gave money to churches dropped to its lowest level this decade -- 76 percent. Many Christians are now giving their money to different types of organizations rather than a church, he said.

"They attend conventional churches less often. They are expanding their circle of Christian relationships beyond local church boundaries. And they are investing greater amounts of their time and money in service organizations that are not connected with a conventional church," Barna said. "That doesn't make such giving inappropriate or less significant. It's just a different way of addressing social needs.

"... If this transition in the perceptions and giving behavior of born again adults continues to accelerate, the service functions of conventional churches will be redefined within the next eight to 10 years, and conventional churches will have to adopt new ways of assisting people in need," he said.

evangelism and social action must go hand in hand

Faith and deeds must go together, says missiologist

by Michelle A Vu, Christian Post
Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2008, 8:05 (BST)

WHEATON, Illinois – One of the world’s top missiologists reminded thousands of missionaries on Tuesday that evangelism and social action must go hand in hand if Christians are to fulfil their responsibility of bringing people to salvation in Jesus Christ.

Dr Ralph D Winter, founder of the US Center for World Mission, says the biggest trend in world mission is the polarisation occurring among mission agencies that either focus exclusively on personal salvation or, in contrast, physical needs when they should be doing both.

Christians have the responsibility to not only share the Gospel and help get people into heaven, the renowned missiologist said, but also “getting God into this world” and glorifying God on Earth.

“Evangelism is the highest priority, but it becomes weak and lacks credibility if it does not generate committed believers who will tackle the world’s problems,” Winter maintained in his presentation at the Korea World Mission Conference 2008.

“What is the use of evangelism if it produces Christians who don’t act, who don’t do, who don’t follow God’s will? All they do is sing in church,” he passionately declared. “It is what happens in the world that is at least as important as what happens in church."

He added, “We are getting fancier and fancier at church worship. We know how to do church, [but] we don’t know how to be the church.”

Drawing from history, Winter laid out how confusion in the reformation, in mission today, and among Christians in the 20th century led to the loss of glory for God and disrespect for evangelicals.

Following the Reformation, Christians became confused with the role of faith versus works in relation to salvation, Winter explained. The reformation fought against the idea that works alone can get someone into heaven, but then many people began to only focus on faith and ignored the Bible’s teaching of faith-inspired action.

Winter pointed to the Scripture passage James 2:20 where it “plainly” states, “Faith without works is dead.”

In addition to the confusion between faith and works, the Reformation is also often misunderstood as a division based on theological differences when it is more a cultural breakaway movement, Winter argues.

The Reformation saw German-speaking churches breaking away from a Mediterranean/Roman Catholic culture. Winter likened this to present-day mission field breakaways as “[attempts] to resist a foreign missionary culture” with national believers wanting to start their own churches.

The confusion today is with some groups that only do relief and development work and do not lead people to a personal relationship with Christ, whilst others do only the opposite.

“The biblical record shows that Jesus accompanied his work with his deeds, works of mercy,” Winter emphasised.

He cited 19th century Presbyterian missions to Korea and Africa where the foreign missionaries not only brought the Gospel message but also made major contributions to the nation. He called for a return in mission to spreading the Gospel while participating in social action.

Besides the confusion in mission today, Winter said there was also confusion in 20th century Christian history where evangelicals started to focus on prophecy and eschatology. These evangelicals were mostly non-intellectuals and lacked influence in society and thus retreated from the public square.

There were some evangelicals in the 20th century, however, that retained the earlier concern for society but lost the concern for repentance and faith in individuals.

As a result, the United States “inherited and still receives” from the 20th century a “huge and serious” polarisation over primacy of evangelisation over action.

Winter argues that evangelisation and action must go together to respond to people who ask why there is so much evil in the world. Christians must fight the huge evil in the world or risk having people think there must be no God or if there is a God He is not all-powerful and loving, since there is so much evil in the world.

Critics wonder why Christians are not out there fighting the problems and thus question the validity of their faith. Some might see the inaction of believers as as a sign that they do not care or that they do not make a difference.

The famed missiologist predicts the eve of a new era of Christianity and mission where more evangelicals sense the need and have the influence to fight the evil in the world. The number of evangelicals in Congress, for example, is larger than ever before, Winter pointed out.

“God wants his will to be done on Earth and not just in heaven,” Winter reminded the conference audience. "If we cannot unite words and deeds we will continue on the polarisation characteristic of the 20th century," he added. "We need to go back to 19th century where evangelicals were wealthy, influential” and made social impact," Winter said.

The biggest trend in global mission today is the polarisation of some doing good things and some saying good things when the two need to be put together, he said.

“We are saved as individuals, [but] we must serve in teams," the USCWM founder concluded.