Candour Coffee and a Failed Attempt at Ephesians Overview

Candour Coffee, Beach Road, SingaporeCame across Candour Coffee (facebook, 41 Beach Road) while on my way to Arab Street. Eyeballed the place: Synesso, Market Lane coffee on the menu…why not?

flat white, Market Lane beans, Candour Coffee, Beach Road, SingaporeSadly, any distinctive taste of the Market Lane espresso was overridden by the weird milk. The microfoam looked about right – good enough to hold some latte art. But instead of that velvet cream, it was sour (dairy sour, not coffee bean acid sour) and thin. Overheated or reheated milk, perhaps.

Wasn’t faring any better with my work on Ephesians. Is the big idea of Paul’s letter:

  • about the biggest mystery in the world that has now been revealed?
  • that the mystery is about God’s will and plan for the world – to unite all things under Christ (and therefore unity in Christ and unity in the body of Christ)?
  • about the hope and inheritance that believers have in Christ?
  • about the fullness in God?
  • about God’s power as present reality?
  • love pops up alot too – God’s love for us in predestining believers for salvation, our love that enables us to comprehend the love of Christ, love that builds up the body, etc.

Needs more work (and a lot of revelation)!

Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, and the Bioethics of Mercy Killing

Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, SingaporeBeng Hiang at Chinese New Year

Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street
Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy StreetBeng Hiang on a normal weeknight, and even then, there was occasion for a blast of their classic “Happy Birthday” recording

Whenever I returned to Singapore from a long stint abroad, we would always head straight to Beng Hiang Restaurant (currently at 112-116 Amoy Street, but moving to 135 Jurong Gateway Road in June 2015. facebook) from Changi Airport, to inhale some of that absolutely delicious fish maw soup, hei zhou and ngoh hiang, dark hokkien noodles, and tender kong ba bao.

Our family, having eaten there for at least 30 years since they were at Murray Street Terrace, were on nodding terms with the Boss With The Tie, who was always polite enough for a smile and some small talk, even if neither party knew the other’s name.

fish maw thick soup with crab meat (蚧肉鱼鳔羹), Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, Singapore
fish maw thick soup with crab meat (蚧肉鱼鳔羹), Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, Singaporefish maw thick soup with crab meat (蚧肉鱼鳔羹)

I was last there a fortnight ago, stuffing some Londoners with the delights of Hokkien cuisine. Later that night, all that good stodgy stuff fuelled a night working on the bioethics of family-assisted suicide (FAS) or physician-assisted suicide (PAS).

Thanks to NC, access to Ronald Dworkin’s Life’s Dominion was a useful starting point. Too often, people are more than eager to shop for a side to take in such a debate, to carry a political part badge, without being about to articulate clearly what their position is, or to engage meaningfully with other parties without a lot of name-calling.

What is necessary for this hot potato as for any other topic is to first identify the issues, to listen carefully to each party’s stance and understand each party’s rationale for arriving at their respective conclusions, before either agreeing, refuting, or rebutting each point in a constructive manner.

五香虾枣 ngor hiang and hei zhou. Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, Singaporengor hiang and hei zhou (五香虾枣)

Dworkin attempts to reconcile the different vocal (American) camps by saying that actually, everyone believes that human life is sacred and wants to preserve the sanctity of such a life.

The difficulty comes in teasing out the different rationale behind this idea that life is valuable. Dworkin proposes categorising the bases for the inherent inviolability of life in terms of the following:

  • critical interests – what makes a life successful rather than unsuccessful – when someone has made something of his life, not just wasted it (p201); a steady, self-defining commitment to a vision of character or achievement that the life as a whole, seen as an integral creative narrative, illustrates and expresses (p205). None of us wants to end our lives out of character (p213). So Dworkin would have approved the integrity of Sandy Bem, the Cornell psychology professor, who chose to die when she found out she had Alzhimer’s, since that was repulsive to her vision of herself as an astute and original thinker (The Last Day of Her Life, New York Times).
  • experiential interests – what makes life pleasant or enjoyable minute by minute, day by day (p201).
  • dignity – decisions about life and death are the most important, the most crucial for forming and expressing personality, says Dworkin. Therefore, to be denied the freedom to choose how to die is an affront to the self-respect and dignity owed to that person by others.

kong ba bao (stewed pork belly with soft buns), Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, Singapore
close-up of a kong ba bao. Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Streetkong ba bao (stewed pork belly with soft buns)

I could be mistaken about Dworkin, but he appears to conflate “value of life” with “the good life” (in all its philosophical glory). Related to this is the fact that although he raises the “religious” argument of inherent value of life, he doesn’t quite seem to understand how all-encompassing the right of the divine is on our lives.

The Christian believes that:

  • contra Dworkin’s self-determined dignity: God gave all life; he knit us in our mother’s wombs; he chose us before the beginning of time! (Ephesians 1:4); he redeemed us with the blood of his Son (Ephesians 1:5), and not only that, made us alive in him, raised and seated us with Christ in the heavenly realms! (Ephesians 2). Therefore we do not choose to dispose of our lives in a manner and time fitting to us, because it is not our right to do so;
  • contra Dworkin’s human-determined critical interests: his/her critical interests are tied up with God’s purpose for him/her (“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10));
  • as Dworkin mentions, experiential interests in pleasure may be outweighed at times by critical interests. But more than that, awkward as it sounds, there is purpose to suffering. For “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:4-5)

sweet dessert soup. Beng Hiang Restaurant, Amoy Street, Singapore

The Heresy of Self-Esteem: how God does not see the best in us.

While taking a break from Ephesians prep this evening, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post claiming this about God:

"He saw the best in me, when everyone else saw the worst in me"The popularity of Marvin Sapp’s song demonstrates how regrettably self-centred we are, even when we think we’re praising God.

Who is the subject of the song? Me.

Who takes the credit for being good, and is thus pleased to be vindicated? Me.

But look at Ephesians 2:1-10 puts paid to that heretical delusion:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christby grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

What good did we have in ourselves? None. We were:

  • dead in the trespasses and sins, in our disobedience
  • followers of Satan
  • living according to our desires
  • under the wrath of God

There was no goodness in us. God could not see the best in us because we were totally corrupt. Instead, his wrath was upon us for our disobedience to him.

Being dead, we could not have done anything to save ourselves. But it was God who took the initiative:

  • to love us with a great love
  • to lavish us with the riches of his mercy and grace
  • to save us
  • and not just to save us, but impossibly crazier, to raise and seat us next to the sinless Christ (see Ephesians 1:20-21!) in heaven!

All this is not because there was anything at all remotely lovely about us. But all this is so that God can be praised for his immense love, kindness, grace, mercy (cf. Ephesians 1:14).