Tuesday, July 19, 2016

MCA's Tan Chuan Hong’s Unfounded Accusation Against Penang State Government

(Photo taken from Tan Chuan Hong's Facebook)
Penang Malaysian Chinese Association's (MCA) secretary Tan Chuan Hong has recently alleged that Penang Institute received scolding from the chief Minister Lim Guan Eng due to their honest presentation of Penang’s declining economy.

According to Tan, Penang Institute’s latest report shows that “during DAP’s rule of Penang, the state’s GDP growth from 2009 to 2015 was lower (than the percentage) nationally.” 

On his Facebook, Tan wrote, “[A]fter DAP leading Penang government, Penang's GDP growth of year 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 were lower national.”  He specifically highlighted the year 2009 when Penang’s GDP decreased by 10.5% as compared to the national rate of 1.5%. Tan concluded that this data is the reason for the chief minister’s warning to Penang Institute.

These allegations are not only unfounded but on their own expose much misinformation and the unfortunate ignorance on Tan’s part.

Tan’s Outdated DataThe so-called “latest report” that Tan showed to the media and posted on his Facebook is actually dated. It was taken from Penang Institute’s magazine Penang Monthly, issue January 2015, page 61. In that issue, Penang’s GDP increase of 5.7% compared to the country’s 5.8% in 2014 was calculated projection.

After federal government has announced the 11th Malaysia Plan, Penang Monthly has published the official figure in the July 2015 issue, page 37. The official figure stated that Penang had 7.4% increase in GDP compared to the country’s 6% in 2014.

Penang’s GDP vis-à-vis Malaysia 2008-2015, from Penang Monthly, July 2015 issue:


2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
(projection)
Penang
5.5%
-10.5%
10.4%
3.9%
5%
4.6%
7.4%
6.2%
Malaysia
4.8%
-1.5%
7.4%
5.2%
5.6%
4.7%
6%
5%

As shown, Penang’s GDP is higher than the country’s in 2008, 2010, 2014, and expected to perform similarly in 2015. The economy fluctuated in the past 8 years, not consecutively declined as alleged by Tan.

Instead of the most updated data, the Penang MCA secretary has exploited outdated figures as misrepresentation to make false allegation against the chief minister.

Penang’s economy in 2009
Tan questioned DAP’s ability to govern in view of the state’s -10.5% GDP decrease in 2009, attributing the fall to the party: “It even fell more than 10.5% in 2009, compared to the national drop of 1.5% in the same year. This has caused people to worry about the ability of Penang’s state government to govern.”

This exposes Tan’s ignorance over two very important factors that caused Penang’s GDP steep decline in 2009.

The first factor was the global financial meltdown in 2008 that caused economic recession in the country. This has significantly affected the manufacturing sector in Penang, which was 47.7% of the state’s overall economy.

As acknowledged in the Department of Statistics’ reportGross Domestic Product (GDP) by State 2009’, Penang’s GDP contraction in that year was “resulted from a sharp decline in the Manufacturing sector” due to the “global financial crisis.” 

The second factor was the failure of the previous state government under Barisan Nasional to diversify and upgrade Penang’s economy. This has thrown the state into the “middle-income trap”.

This is noted in the research jointly-published in 2010 by Khazanah Nasional and the World Bank. The recession in 2008-2009 has shown that Penang is, “A victim of its own success, its competitiveness in traditional areas is falling as wages rise. At the same time, it has not developed an environment where innovation can flourish to yield higher profits and wages.” 
(Homi Kharas, Albert Zeufack and Hamdan Majeed, Cities, People and the Economy: A Study on Positioning Penang (Malaysia: Khazanah Nasional Berhad, 2010), 10. Emphasis added.)

These two factors are evidence that the GDP plunge in 2009 was not due to the DAP and the present chief minister.

Tan’s false accusation exposes his own ignorance of the complexity surrounding the economic state of Penang at that time.

It is deeply deplorable that the MCA secretary has produced such nonsensical accusation by misrepresenting data and making severely ignorant allegation against the state government.

(An extract of this statement appears in Free Malaysia Today: http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2016/07/18/seagates-closure-zairil-says-penang-will-bounce-back/)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Still a long way ahead for the country

Took this picture when I was on my way in between polling stations to check on reported electoral irregularity.

It was my first time managing not 1 but 2 constituencies (Serian and Kedup). Both places have limited data coverage, which is a huge challenge as we can't maintain constant communication and can't use Google map/Waze at a foreign terrain.

This is especially so when there were 3 to 6 rallies happening simultaneously at various unfamiliar locations which are far from each other.

The mobilization of manpower (with my support team, esteemed speakers, volunteers, and local coordinators) and logistics (with limited cars and equipments), and the coordination work between party's headquarters in Kuala Lumpur and Kuching and the two local constituencies were straining.

The publicity efforts involving giant billboards, banners, responsive flyers, and paraphernalia under extremely tight schedule and budget were demanding.

There was also the need to give political speech in a language not natural to my tongue.

Daily work hours averaged at 16 to 19. No day off. It was an eventful 3-weeks.

After all that have been done, we lost. Mostly to money politics, and secondarily to other sociopolitical factors.

I seldom think that I've done my best, but I believe I had for this one.

As the picture shows, it's a long road ahead. For the country.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Zakir Naik an expert on comparative religions?

The controversy over Zakir Naik, who is highly esteemed by many, led me to watch his video. To my disappointment, in one video, Naik who talked about "Trinity" without showing any basic knowledge about it. 

He uttered very uninformed statement like: the doctrine of Trinity is false because the word "Trinity" is not in the Bible. (Not to mention the very clumsy handling of topics such as the canonization of the Bible and issues such as textual criticism.)

That is not how the concept of "Trinity" came about. But we can't blame him because many Christians are also not sure about this.

Nonetheless, we expect Naik to at least demonstrate some knowledge based on doctrinal research about the core belief of Christianity, as he is noted to be an expert in comparative religions and the President of Islamic "Research" Foundation.

Although many may find it daunting to learn about Trinity, there are accessible resources available for the task.

Stephen Holmes's The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History, and Modernity published in 2012 by IVP Academic is one such resource. Holmes is a theologian at University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

The book gives wide overview of the important debate within Christianity about the doctrine. It tells us how the doctrine arises largely as a response to the "exegetical pressure" of various verses in the Bible (p.53-54: 1 Cor 8:6, Matt 28:19, 1 Cor 12:4-6, 2 Cor 13:13, Gal 4:6, Eph 4:4-6, Rev 1:4-5).

Holmes shows us that the concept of Trinity is still very much debated even among Christians. In the first chapter, Holmes summarizes all the big ideas among the great twentieth century theologians, namely Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, John Zizioulous, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jurgen Moltmann, Robert Jenson, Leonardo Boff, Miroslav Volf, Cornelius Plantiga, Richard Swinburne, Michael Rea, and Brian Leftow.

Thus, it should not surprise Christians that non-Christians express doubt over Trinity. But that is not the point.

The point is a heuristic one: If Christian theologians are still debating about the Trinity, then anyone interested in comparative religions should ask, how did this whole debate come about, especially when the word Trinity is not in the Bible? 

The concept of Trinity is one of much nuance that non-experts may find fumbling when learning about it. Take for instance, this sentence in the book:
"Barth's denial of a Logos asarkos, Rahner's insistence on the identity of the immanent Trinity with the economic Trinity, and Pannenberg's and Moltmann's desire to see God's life as open to the gospel history, all reach their most extreme, and most coherent, expression in Jenson's theology." (p.24)
However, readers should not to be intimidated by the above sentence for Holmes does explain what it means.

Thus, Christians must learn about their core belief as much as non-Christians who are expert in comparative religions should.

Inter-faith dialogue and understanding in the world, not only in Malaysia, deserves better experts whose working knowledge is based on real research on theology.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

The movie Spotlight on Roman Catholic Church's systemic evil

The film 'Spotlight' which won this year's Oscar for Best Picture is based on the true story of how a team of journalists exposed the Roman Catholic Church's systemic cover-up of their priests' sexual abuse of children.  

It shows how clergy and devout laity can blindly conspired to conceal evil out of their misplaced sacred sense of allegiance or religious obedience (and also perhaps wrong theology). 

I am particular affected by the depiction of the regular church-goers, of which some were the rich and power people in Boston, whose loyalty to their church has pulled them so far away from the hurt and injustice suffered by the abused victims. When confronted by the journalists, they simply dismissed or remained silent about the issue.

To them, what really matters was the fact that the church had been doing so much for the community, thus nothing should tarnish the reputation of the religious institution even though the lives of hundreds of children are destroyed and its truth is swept under the carpet.

'Spotlight' shows us that (metaphorically) demons do come in the form of middle-age people with loving family who serve as active cell-group leaders in a local church.

The film ends with the statement that says, "249 priests and brothers were publicly accused of sexual abuse within the Boston Archdiosese and the number of survivors in Boston is estimated to be well over 1,000," and a list of over 200 other cities around the world where "major abuse scandals have been uncovered."  

As one character in the movie said, "If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them."  

After the exposure, Cardinal Bernard F. Law who was responsible for the cover-up resigned from his Archbishop position in Boston. Then Pope John Paul II appointed him as Archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (one of the four Papal Major Basilicas in Rome). 

This film brings out the reality of how individual and structural evil takes their form in a contemporary religious institution.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Christians and Madonna's Concert: Living with grace, kindness, and openness in pluralistic society

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Madonna's concerts have been subjected to public scrutiny especially by Christians for acts that are deem offensive to Christianity.

Top Roman Catholic leaders from the Philippines, Singapore, and New Zealand have voiced strong objection against the singer's performance.

Singapore's Anglican leader has likewise issued a public statement about this. And leaders of other churches like the Presbyterians amd Methodists made internal memo about the matter too.

All of the leaders share the same objection: The singer's performances insult, mock, and/or offend Christians.

Some condemn her, some want the local government to ban her, some call for boycott, and some want all of the above.

It is disconcerting to see Christians living in plural society under secular governance to have such reaction.

A friend recently shared about a social survey done among non-Christians in a Singapore university on their impression of Christians. The general impression is this: "Christians are known to stand against things, but no one knows what Christians stand for."

This is the symptom pointing to the gap in Christians' understanding of what it really means to live in such context.

Christians need to think hard over their theology and religious sentiment in relation to the social space that we are in.

In pluralistic society, there are different ideas and sentiments toward religion, the ultimate reality, or God. In fact, according to the prominent sociologist Peter L. Berger, there are two pluralisms that we need to reckon with:
"If one is to understand the place of religion in the pluralistic phenomenon, one must note that there are two pluralisms in evidence here. The first is the pluralism of different religious options co-existing in the same society. [...] The second is the pluralism of the secular discourse and the various religious discourses, also co-existing in the same society."
(The Many Altars of Modernity: Toward A Paradigm For Religion In A Pluralist Age [Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter, 2014], 53.)
That means in a pluralistic society, there are some who think that God is Trinity, and many who do not, some who think the natural world is all there is, and some who think that there is no need to entertain such thought, and the fact that all of us are living and sharing the same social space.

Given such setting, it is obvious there will be clashes of perspectives on the divine and the world.

Thus, the crucial thing in such setting is in how the myriad of individuals with various views on God and the world respond to differences among ourselves.

We can choose to respond with hostility and objection. Or, we can choose to react in grace, kindness, and openness.

The Christian leaders mentioned above have chosen the former. And that is a big problem. It begs the question on consistency: how consistently hostile can they be towards views that are different, contradicting, and even blasphemous to them?

Will these Christian leaders similarly seek the condemnation and banning of texts such as the Qur'an, Vedas, sutras, the Book of Mormon and teachings by other religions' leaders because they contain views that are different, contradicting, and blasphemous to them?

Or, we could turn the table around: how will these Christians feel when others seek to condemn and ban their Bible and sermon as they contain perspective that are different, contradicting, and blasphemous to them?

For instance, how would Christians feel if Muslims, Jews, and atheists condemn, lobby with MPs, and ask for the banning of the upcoming movie 'Risen' as it goes against their religious and irreligious sentiment?

One may defend the Christians' hostility towards Madonna's performance by distinguishing her from inter-religious differences, with the former as irreligious mockery and insult while the latter is religious difference.

This view expresses the symptom highlighted above, a gap in understanding the nature of our society. As per Berger's observation, there are two pluralisms in a pluralistic society: the multi-religious and the irreligious (secular) discourses.

The distinction that sees Madonna's performance as irreligious insult from inter-religious difference has excluded the irreligious as part of the pluralistic society. It is as if that the views held by the irreligious are to be judged differently from views held by the religious.

How do Christians come to decide that the irreligious views be considered offensive mockery to Christianity while other religions' teachings that reject Jesus Christ as God and blaspheme even the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31) are simply differences?

Unless one could provide answer to this question, the distinction between the irreligious and religious is not only a wrong sociological assumption but fundamentally an unjust and discriminatory position which is also theologically hollow.

Only by comprehending the plurality of the social space that we are living in can we be hesitant to perceive perspectives that are different from ours as "insult" to our idea of God and offend us so much so that we need to lobby for their banning. 

In such space, all parties are welcomed to share their perspective (for e.g. to have Madonna share why she does what she does?). Yet to lobby for one perspective to be held supreme over another to the extent of affecting changes in the public space requires a more guided and disciplined way of discourse.

Therefore, Christians need to think hard over such matters, and not simply perceive different things as "insult" and "offensive". Along the way, we can choose to react to irreligious and religious differences in grace, kindness, and openness.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tony Blair, western values, and Judeo-Christian influence

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The former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair deeply believes in the superiority of western values. For that, he thinks that the west should continue to strive to lead the world as has always been. 

Since his stepping down, Blair actively travels the world to develop religious peace through his foundation. He continues to exercise leadership grounded in western principles. His confidence in western values shapes his view on geopolitics and hope for the future of the world.

His position seems triumphalist, glorifying the western civilization over the rest of the world. Perhaps, bordering cultural imperialism. Yet, it is not as simple as that. 

Although Blair sees these values as western, yet he also believes that they are potentially universally appreciated as values that all of humanity can embrace:
"The world needs our [west-oriented] leadership for a very simple reason: while our values may have been nurtured in the West, their appeal and their ownership is vested in humanity. Liberty, justice, the people above the government not the government above the people: these are the values we forged over centuries and they represent the steadfast evolution of human progress"
(Tony Blair, A Journey [London, UK: Arrow Books, paperback edition 2011], xviii.)
To Blair, those western values are not rootless. They are the fruit from the Judeo-Christian backyard that has so shaped some of the most important egalitarian principles that we cherish today.
"Europe has many faults, but it has progressive values, a decent base adherence to the Judeo-Christian heritage that precisely because of its tumultuous and often terrible history has achieved a considerable measure of human civilization today." (Ibid, xxxvi.) 
In other words, to Blair, the reason why the west should continue to lead the world is because these values, negotiated rightly as well as wrongly with Christian theology through the ages, are the right set of universal principles that make us who we are meant to be as human beings.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Carl Trueman's own poison and doctrinal dissent

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Recently, Carl Trueman, the Paul Woolley Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS), has written about the (impending) crisis among conservative Protestant Christians. 

His bleak observation is fueled by what he saw as the prevalent power-play, or "Mob" rule, in the confessional circle. He highlighted the censoring of his writing on the Reformation21 website as an example of such "bully-boy tactics":
First, far too much power is exerted by wealthy and influential parachurch organizations. A good example of this was provided this year by events surrounding the attempted exchange about Evangelicals and Catholics Together which was commissioned by Reformation21, the e-zine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Three of us were involved: Timothy George, Thomas Guarino, and myself. The exchange was respectful, honest, friendly, but frank. My own article was scarcely a paean of praise to the ECT process. 

Within hours of the first article (that of Tim) being published, a tweet and a hostile blog post by a senior representative of another Reformed parachurch group based in Florida, followed by rumored behind-the-scenes shenanigans, were enough to get the series pulled (and then thankfully picked up by First Things—kudos to Rusty Reno). Sad to say, one parachurch group had effectively closed down perfectly legitimate discussion in an unconnected forum by sheer bully-boy tactics. 

An aberration? Unfortunately not. This is symptomatic of the way things are in much of the conservative Protestant world. As long as the most influential parachurches are run like businesses, money and marketing will be the overriding concerns, even as concern for ‘the gospel’ is always the gloss. Reinforced by a carrot-and-stick system of feudal patronage connected to lucrative conference gigs, publishing deals, and access to publicity, such tactics as those described will continue to be deployed. Roman Catholics might look on Protestantism from the outside and see it as theology ruled by a mob. Speaking as an insider, it often seems to me to be ruled more by the Mob.
In sum, the power-play within the conservative Protestant circle has effectively censored Trueman's article from the website even though he serves, as of this post, in the Editorial Advisory Committee.

Trueman is clearly upset over this, and saw the incident an evident of a real problem in the Reformed community.

This incident is both sad and comical. 

Sad, because this is another example of the widespread incapability among Christians to deal with pluralism in general, theological plurality in particular. Comical, because Trueman get to taste a little of his own poison.

Trueman, whether realizes or not, has significantly contributed to the "bully-boy tactics" culture. He has, in his capacity as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean from 2006-2012, took part in ousting his colleague Peter Enns from WTS in 2008.

He implied in a public statement that the dismissal of Enns was necessary for the seminary (1) to uphold "the great catholic legacy of the Reformation and of subsequent confessional evangelicalism," and (2) to hold its faculty accountable:
As Academic Dean and as Vice President for Academic Affairs, I believe this lies above all in two specific areas.  First, it is now clear that Westminster is to be committed to a doctrine of scripture that reflects what is taught in the great confessions of the Reformation, and which has nurtured the confessional evangelical church for centuries.   As evangelicalism in general broadens out, as it loses its connection with its confessional Reformation past, as it becomes increasingly vacuous at a doctrinal level, the leaders at Westminster have decided that that is not the path this institution will go down.  We will not accept that the Reformation creedal heritage is no longer relevant; we will not accede to the indefinite broadening of evangelicalism’s doctrinal horizons; nor will we subscribe to the modifications of the doctrine of scripture which are such a necessary part of that broadening.  Rather, we will stand where we have always stood, on the great solas of the Reformation: Christ, scripture, grace, faith, and, above all, God’s glory.  We are not, and will not be, a seminary which repudiates the great catholic legacy of the Reformation and of subsequent confessional evangelicalism.

Second, it has been made clear that Westminster professors are to be held accountable to more than just the canons of their chosen academic guild or the current trends of thinking in their various subdisciplines or even their friends and colleagues on Faculty.  Accountability in times of crisis, of course, is always a painful experience. There is a human cost on all sides which press releases, theological statements, and minutes of meetings rarely, if ever, convey. While theology is indeed a great hobby, it is too often a nightmare of a profession.  Yet those who teach must be held accountable for their teaching, however hard that may be; and, for too long at Westminster, too little attention has been paid to what we as Faculty teach while too much, perhaps, has been paid to what others outside of our church constituencies think of us.
Trueman also revealed the kind of power-play that he and his colleagues orchestrated at WTS as: "organized and prepared for every eventuality, putting into place safety nets and multiple 'Plan Bs', they identified the places where influence could be wielded, mastered procedure, fought like the blazes when they had to, stood strong and immovable in the face of violent opposition and outmanoeuvred their opponents by continual attention to meeting agendas, points of order, procedural matters and long-term coordinated strategy." (H/T: Brandon Withrow)  

So on one hand, Trueman lamented his own victim-hood of "bully-boys" power-play, while on the other hand, he did it on others. 

If this tell us anything, it shows the mindless demand from certain conservative quarter of the evangelical universe to have its doctrinal liberty cake and eat it at the same time.

It is therefore a necessity for religious believers, whether Christian or others, to learn to acknowledge intra-faith plurality that embraces doctrinal liberty even from within our own tradition. 

Hope the aftertaste of his own poison has brought Trueman to see the ill-effect he has injected into the Christian community himself, which contributed to the crisis he now so passionately warning the rest of us about.

On our part, we must learn. Not so much from Trueman's observation, but his inconsistency. So that we can avoid it.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Are rules set by churches a reflection of eternal divine truth?

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It is said that divine truth is eternal and unchanging. Christians set up principles that they choose to abide with. Churches set up rules or moral expectation that their employees have to follow. (In fact, all organizations have their own rules, so this is not something peculiar to churches. However, what is peculiar is the kind of rules that churches have which other organizations don't.) 

These principles and rules are believed to be reflecting God's eternal unchanging moral demand or order for the creation.

Some time back, ChristianityToday.com reported a change of rules in the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board:
Previous rules required would-be missionaries to have been baptized in an SBC church, or in a church that held SBC-like beliefs about baptism. Candidates baptized in a church that did not believe in eternal security—the idea that true Christians can’t lose their salvation even if they sin—or a church that views baptism is a sacrament were rejected.

The new rules allows those who were baptized by immersion and who are members of an SBC church to be candidates.

The changes also address the question of charismatic worship and prayer practices, which have been controversial for Southern Baptists. Under the previous rules, candidates who spoke in tongues or had a “private prayer language” were barred.

Under the new rules, speaking in tongues does not disqualify missionary candidates. Too much emphasis on charismatic gifts, like speaking in tongues, could still lead to discipline.

“IMB may still end employment for any missionary who places ‘persistent emphasis on any specific gift of the Spirit as normative for all or to the extent such emphasis becomes disruptive’ to Southern Baptist missions work,” according to a FAQ about the new rules posted by IMB.

Divorced candidates have been allowed to serve in short missions. Now they will be eligible to serve as long-term missionaries, depending on the circumstances of their divorce and other factors, such as the culture they will work in.

Parents of teenagers will also be potential candidates. The IMB had previously disqualified them out of concerns for the challenges that teenagers would face by being uprooted and having to move overseas. Now IMB leaders will decided on a case-by-cases basis whether or not to allow parents with teenagers.
In Singapore, most Baptist churches in the past required their newly hired pastors who were baptized by sprinkling and not by immersion to go through immersion baptism, as sprinkling was considered theologically invalid. Now, this is not required anymore. Many local Baptist churches recognize sprinkling baptism as well.

The point: Whether we acknowledge or not, churches do change religious rules and beliefs. If so, then how could churches and Christians claim that their rules and principles reflect the eternal truth of God? 

Therefore a lot of hesitation is needed for believers to make demanding claims on themselves as well as on others. Human rules are always interpreted construct that attempt to reflect God's truth to the best of our intention and understanding. But that should not give us enough reason to believe that our principles and churches' organizational rules are eternal truths. 

At best, they are for very practical and functional use, that is to ensure things move. But to claim that they are absolute and unchanging is another matter altogether. Such loaded theological assertion risks blaspheming God, impressing our own idea of what's right and wrong unto God, and telling the world that they are of God.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Is there a place for scholarly pursuit of divine truth?

I used to believe that divine truth is given to everyone regardless of their intellectual ability. I was wrong. 

The "wise and learned" are excluded from divine revelation. Says who? The man himself---in fact, such exclusion is praiseworthy.

"At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do." (Luke 10:21)

In fact, as I read through Luke's Gospel, Jesus is portrayed very much like an anarchist. He is against establishment, the rich, the elite, and the learned. His curd relation to the latter group is most fascinating to me.

For eg. "One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them." (11:45)

If we can extrapolate "experts in the law" as "scholars", then this passage contains so much critique against the practice of meritocratic academia (both in secular and theological studies)! 

It seems that elite thinkers are shunned by Jesus. What does this tell us about academic pursuit and excellence that almost everyone (including churches) so cherish today? Should this diminish the importance of academic theological study, or should this help us to re-frame academic theological learning?

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Conviction and public ethics

The conversation below can be applied in various issues as debated in all religions. The point is not about "bigotry" per se but, as aptly illustrated by Adam Ford, also on how loosely this word is being used on the two disagreeing sides. 

This conversation also highlights the need to discuss public ethics in a way that takes into consideration the pluralistic nature of our society, specifically in relation to religions.
The Oxford Dictionary defines the following words as such (which may change according to the prevailing semantic currency each word possesses):

Bigot: A person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions.

Bigoted: Obstinately or unreasonably attached to a belief, opinion, or faction, and intolerant towards other people’s beliefs and practices.

Bigotry: Intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself.

So, do you think the person on the left of the conversation above a bigot? Why, why not? Is his approach right or wrong? Does he take into consideration the pluralistic nature of society in deciding public ethics?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Christian conduct in church and society

Rowan Williams recently wrote on Apostle Paul's vision of the Christian church:
"For him, the Christian Church was not a human institution – but equally, not even a divine institution in the ordinary sense. It was an imagined social space: a place where human desires found their proper focus and human relations were harmonised accordingly. The Church was where you discovered what you most acutely needed and how you could become most fully what you were created to be – an agent in community, drained of self-will and self-absorption by the pressure of God’s love, so that you could relate to others without fear, rivalry and lust for power."
I wonder if it is legitimate to extend this ecclesiological vision into an ideal pluralistic society that politics attempt to create and sustain? Could this be a Christian political witness? 

Some such as Stanley Hauerwas and John Milbank have suggested that the church should be the role model for the society to emulate, however such view assumes an obvious social wall separating the Christians' social reality from non-Christians', as if both groups do not live in the same society or their interaction can be clearly defined and ought to be minimized.

I'm thinking, what if it's the other way around? If churches' beliefs and practices are more often than not being influenced and affected by the society they are situated in, then the political arrangement of the society has both direct and indirect access to the formation of ecclesiastical life. 

If so, then Christian political witness should not prioritize the question 'how should Christians conduct themselves in churches' over 'how should Christians conduct themselves in a pluralistic society'. Christians must learn how to conduct themselves consistently in both the church and the society.

In other words, the "social space" that Christians imagined must be big enough to contain the society as a whole without prematurely distinguishing between the wheat (church) from the weed (non-Christian social reality).