Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Sıngapore Swıng wıthout a Sıngapore Slıng

There is ever so much to blog about from the world tour thus far and I wıll be doıng some posts on Sidney and Jakarta and Prince Caspian and Indiana Jones both of whıch I saw ın the last two weeks but here are a few thoughts on my tıme ın Singapore. Firstly there was an immediate similarity to the time last August in Hong Kong ın that Dispensational theology focusing on the rapture is exceedingly common and vigorously defended here.
In the case of Methodism ın Singapore thıs ıs odd since it is no part of the heritage they got from when American Methodism was transplated there. In other words, ıt came from the more Reformed Evangelical circles ın that beautiful place. Nevertheless, my lectures on eschatology ıncluding on dıspensing with Dıspensationalism (based on my book the Problem with Evangelıcal Theology), were well attended and generally well received. It was amazing to me to discover than even the ardent defenders of the rapture had no idea where the idea came from and how recent a notion ıt ıs when it comes to interpreting the NT.
Full marks to Bıshop Robert Solomon and his ministers (including various Asbury grads) for their wonderful work in that place and for being such gracious hosts ın steamy Singapore. Methodism and more specifically a truly Wesleyan form of Methodism is alive and well there. I was there to be one of the key note speakers at the annual Aldersgate Convention and we celebrated his big day wıth vıgor yesterday ın Wesley Methodist Church. Thanks to Peter Teo and Bishop Solomon for looking after me so well.
One of the more interesting things I learned on this stop on my trip is that one reason Dıspensationalism does well in the Orient ıs precisely because of the vertical nature of Oriental spirituality and philosophy which focuses not on the future or on history per se but on the other spiritual world where, for example, the ancestors are believed to dwell. Another interesting contributing factor as to why various conservative forms of Protestantism (many are translplants from the U.S. rather than the U.K. as ıs the case wıth Methodism there) thrive there ıs the socially conservative character of the culture ın general (yes you can get heavily fined for jaywalking if caught and yes it is still the cleanest large city I've ever seen).
I'm ın Izmir ın Turkey now so stay tuned for further revelations.


pltypus said...

Perhaps another reason for the deep-rootedness of dispensational beliefs would be the allegiance of young ministers to the teachings of local seminaries and the beliefs of their own churches. Independent engagement with church history & theology is at best frowned upon and at worst given an apathetic shrug.

Dr. Ben, I hope your study on "The problems with evangelical theology" will continue to shake the foundations of many here. So that they may rise above the graveyard of dispensationalism and be set free in the truth of the bible.

Rock the turks!

apeh said...

Dr Ben,

Thanks again for speaking at the Aldersgate Convention. Yours is a message that many in the church need to hear and you are precisely right in that much of the Christian doctrines and theology have been more informed by commercialized consumerist culture than the word of the Lord. Thanks for the timely reminder to keep looking to the Word of the Lord.

We will continue to plod on with the Lord's work here in Singapore and will keep you in our prayers as you continue bring the Word of the Lord with freshness, in your travels.


La Tey said...

Hello Dr. BW3,

I am really glad that you came to visit Singapore. It is good that you started to place the rapture and soteriology in perspective.

Really like your explanation on the Ossuary and Talpiot tomb.I would say really good job here in Singapore and GOD bless you for your stay in Ephesus


wnpaul said...

Dr. Witherington,

are you typing on a Turkish keyboard?
That's the only explanation I can come up with for the strange lower case letters 'i' without a dot which appear throughout this post :-)

GURU_SD said...

Dr. Ben, thank you for your lectures in Jakarta. It was so encouraging and illuminating.

M.J.D. said...


Could you clarify what you mean when you say "Reformed Evangelical circles"? I'm not aware of any folks who call themselves Reformed and embrace dispensational theology. Do you use that descriptor to describe other protestant in general? Please tell us more.

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Mark and Julie, I mean that ındeed the Dıspensational position ın both Singapore and Indonesia comes ın a package with Calvinism more often than not and yes this is one of those Turkish keyboards wıth extra squıggleş. Off to Ephesus.


Unknown said...

hi ben,
i think ur lectures here really woke all of us up, & it's something long long overdue ... but the lord has his timing, & he opened the way accordingly & for that i'm grateful for. i'm especially thankful 4 your comment on scorpions & blackhawk helicopters in the section on eschatology in your blog, i think that really brought us back down 2 earth to think about the 1st century.

thanks 4 doing research abt scofield, we have a scofield KJV which belonged 2 my very late grandfather. it's a family heirloom & it looks like i will eventually inherit it. well, at least now i know what i'm inheriting!


Rev Tony B said...

Hi, Ben.
I sypathise about the Turkish keyboard: I was recently using a PC in Estonia, and just couldn't make it do some of things I wanted. Made me feel a proper idiot...

Based on your comments here, you might be just the right person to ask: I read Moltmann's Theology of Hope a good few years ago, and have just returned to a serious consideration of eschatology via other subjects, so I'd like to read a bit more. Has anything arisen from Theology of Hope, anyone followed it through? Biblically, I want to have a closer look at the "already-but-not-yet" of the parables of the Kingdom, but I'd like some advice on anything developed by theologians after Moltmann.

Thanks for your help. Enjoy the tour.

pltypus said...

Dr Ben,
A fellow struggler just posted a leap of faith on the socio-rhetorical method at:

Would you kindly comment if we are on the right track? Thanks.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Quite interesting, Dr. Witheringotn.

I quoted from your book on Philemon, Colossians and Ephesians on my blog for a Sunday post. Am enjoying it immensely and look foreward to reading the rest of those socio-rhetorical commentaries.

Quite interesting about what is going on in Singapore and your take on that.

Ben Witherington said...

It would be an interesting exercise to compare Moltmann's Theology of Hope wıth Tom Wrıght's recent volume on the same subject.


Edmund Lau said...

Dear Dr Witherington,

Thanks for your helpful comments over at Jeremiah Blues. Will read up more on the Hebraic-Hellenistic relations in the 1st century. I agree with your comment that Stephen was not antagonistic to the Jewish System but with the evil response of the people towards God's Redemption. My evaluations of Stephen and Hellenism were somewhat coloured by Robert Reymond's book, "Paul-Missionary/Theologian" that I read some years back.

All in all, I see the socio-rhetorical method that you employ in your series of commentaries to be very timely and needful. More than ever, we need to simply let the Bible speak rather than to choke it up with our insecure phobias, preconceived prejudices or even pre-learned "correct" theologies. Application of the message of Scripture should naturally flow and is a consequence of reverential/honest study. It should never be substitute for the original message in the Biblical books (whether the *application-message* come from august personalities of history such as Luther, Calvin or whoever is beside the point).

I was not able to attend your talks in Singapore but was pleased to learn of the contents through my friends, Pltypus and Simon. Hope to be able to catch them on DVD later on.

~ Edmund

ed said...

Dr. Ben,
Your comments about the dispensational beliefs and belief in the rapture caught my interest. I am currently reading N.T. Wright's new book, "Surprised by Hope". If you've had a chance to look at it I would love to hear your take on what he writes. He really hit home for me. Keep up the good work.

georgos said...

Dear Ben,
There is probably merit to you comments about the connection between Asian vertical orientation and the ease of accepting Dispensational views. Anyway, your stay in Singapore was all too short. I would have enjoyed probing further some of the social and ethical implications of resurrection in this setting. But probably folks just needed time to process your critique of their assumptions. I made a few comments at my blog -


愛丁堡.四十不惑 said...

I am a PhD student now studying in Edinburgh. I grew up in Malaysia, and had my theological training in Hong Kong.
I would like to respond to the notion of dispensationalism Ben mentioned.

I think the reason for having a strong dispensationalism in South East Asia as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan (not so much now), is more of historical factor than religious-philosophical. Two separate commentataries and expositions on the Book of Revelations have to be referred to for the influence of dispensationalism in South East Asia as a whole, which are Arnold Yeung's (Huang Mugu) Jidu shu jian (The Letter of Christ) and Huang Bide's (Peter Wong) A Concise Illustration to Revelation. Unfortunately, both are in Chinese. They both trace the historical root.

Unknown said...

Hi Dr Ben,

I have started a new blog over at:

It highlights certain thoughts and posts from my main blog at:

Can you care to comment on my approach? I'm glad that your socio-rhetorical hermeneutics have led me this far.

bless you,
Edmund Lau Kok Ming