11 Jul 2021
Dear church family
On 16 June 2021, the Singapore government released the report on the Census of Population 2020. The report is accessible at the Department of Statistics’ website www.singstat.gov.sg
Subsequently on 22 June, The Straits Times (ST) published an article written by Mathew Mathews and Melvin Tay entitled, ‘Fading Faith? Fathoming the future of Singapore’s religious landscape’. The article provided an analysis of religious trends in Singapore based on the Census report and covered a range of issues in the changing religious sentiments of Singaporeans in general and also trajectories in specific religious traditions.
Consequently, Dr Roland Chia, theologian professor at Trinity Theological College, wrote a response paper entitled “No Room for Complacency”, which is available on the website of Ethos Institute for Public Christianity, https://ethosinstitute.sg/no-room-for-complacency/
Dr Chia shared his concerns on the analysis of the current religious trends that have direct or indirect bearing on Christianity and the churches in Singapore. He highlighted three issues raised by the ST article that he thought pastors, leaders, educators and parents should be concerned about and must give more attention to.
1. Spirituality without Religion
This issue has to do with the delinking of spirituality from organised religion, a trend that has been endemic in the West for several decades. The rejection of organised religion has resulted in privatised spiritualities. Dr Chia encouraged the Singapore churches to place emphasis on the importance of ecclesial and liturgical spirituality.
2. Digitalisation of Religion
Church services and meetings have gone online because of restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. While it is beneficial practically, this digitalisation has exacerbated the drift away from organised religion and this can potentially lead to four critical issues. Firstly, Christian orthodoxy could be easily jeopardised. Secondly, religious or theological authority may be compromised. Thirdly, it encourages religious consumerism. Fourthly, it may lead to a DIY religion.
3. God of the Gaps
This issue is about how the emphasis on the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) disciplines in our Singapore education system has impacted and challenged the relevance of religion. The relationship between science and the Christian faith is an important but neglected topic in our churches. We need to help people to see and understand the relevance of the Christian faith in a world that is governed by science and technology.
May I encourage you to read Dr Chia’s response paper on your own. You may consider sharing your thoughts and having a discussion at your cell group meetings or friendship fellowship groups. Let us pray for God’s wisdom and grace for pastors, leaders and parents to guide God’s people during such challenging times.