THE Dean of Studies at Trinity Theological College (TTC), Dr Simon Chan, has been inducted to the Earnest Lau Chair of Systematic Theology at TTC.
Named after a distinguished educationist, principal and churchman, the establishment of the academic chair was initiated by a number of Mr Lau’s former students in recognition and appreciation of his lasting influence on their lives. He not only tried to impart knowledge but worked hard to instil good values and mould their character. Many today still look up to him as a latter-day Mr Chips, loved and respected.
In paying tribute to him at the induction service at TTC on Oct 3, 2002, Mr Hsieh Fu Hua recounted that Mr Lau, who was educated at Oberlin College, Ohio (1952) and Balliol College, Oxford (1955), joined Anglo-Chinese School in1955 where he served with distinction, first as a teacher and, from 1977 to 1983, as Principal. Mr Lau subsequently served as Director of the Regional Language Centre (RELC) until his retirement in 1990.
Reference was also made to the important role he played as one of the leading lay leaders of the Methodist Church over a period of more than 40 years.
In selecting Dr Simon Chan as the first incumbent of the Chair, the committee recognised his service to TTC from 1989 when he joined as lecturer in systematic theology. Currently Dean of Studies, he is one of the growing number of Asian theologians who have contributed significantly to contemporary theological thinking through his many essays and three books. His “Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life” (IVP, 1998) was selected as one of the top 10 books for 1999 by the Academy of Parish Clergy.
At the induction service, the Rev Dr Joseph Frary, who was instrumental in preparing Dr Chan for his doctoral studies, paid tribute to him, highlighting Asia’s growing influence in global Christian mission, and the contribution that TTC could make to theological education in the region.
In his inaugural lecture entitled “The Church and the Development of Doctrine”, Professor Chan maintained that doctrines are the authoritative teachings of the Church and should not be seen as archaic and irrelevant. They develop as the Church encounters different intellectual and cultural changes. However, the proper development of doctrine requires a rigorous understanding of the nature and structure of the Church.
Appealing to the ancient dictum, “the law of praying is the law of belief”, Prof Chan argued that the two cannot be divorced, and that the development and renewal of the Church’s doctrine must always be understood in the Church’s continuing life of prayer. Insofar as the Church is the Body of Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit, its doctrinal development must also be understood as the work of the Holy Spirit, since it is He that will lead the Church inexorably to its final fulfilment.
Dr Roland Chia, a lecturer at Trinity Theological College, is also the Director of the Centre for the Development of Christian Ministry at TTC. He is a member of Fairfield Methodist Church.