Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Testimonial

Background
My pilgrimage from being a non-Christian to my decision for theological studies started when my mother embraced Buddhism when I was still in Primary school. Since then I was exposed to serious spirituality for the very first time. By following parental footsteps, I came be to a staunch Mahabrata Buddhist. Being in that faith had me attended Buddhist Sunday school for a number of years. In the fourteenth year of my life I led a 10 days monastic life at the Kek Lok Si temple, Penang, practicing monk-hood, with head shaved, vegetarian diet, intense sutra chanting, meditation, and Dhamma learning (Buddha’s teachings). My studies on Buddhism brought me to a diploma course at the International Buddhist College after my graduation from secondary education. I was not merely a Buddhist but a very polemical one. Christians who tried to share the Gospel to me would usually ended up being ridiculed by my arguments. I did thought that the Christian god is a weak god compared to the enlightened Buddha. At that time, the only truth to me is nothing else but Buddhism.

The Gospel
Ironically I came to open up a bit to listen to the Gospel when a Buddhist shared it with me. He is Steven Sim, my best friend who was also a staunch Buddhist himself. Though we are from different sect of Buddhism, our similar passion in the discourse of life’s meaning had brought us together on our pilgrimage to Christianity. Both of us spent hours discussing religious issues almost everyday and every night. He was the one who read the Bible (which was given by his friend) and discussed what he had read with me so that we could critic it from our Buddhist point of view. We were 16 then.

Those thought-provoking discussions went on for a period of time. We were excited with what we were discovering each day as if we were engaging in a chess game. I remembered vividly when we were chatting on John 14:6, Steven asked me a terrifying question ‘What if this passage is true?’ I forgot our exact respond but I think we were silent for a while. Subconsciously both of us started to accept the Gospel. It did not take long for us to see it as part of the Truth in life. And it was at that moment ‘[our] Adversary began to make His final moves’ (as how C.S Lewis put it).

The Conversion
When we were17 we started visiting various religious sites during school holidays. At that time, one of our friend invited us to his church’s Sunday service. I forgot how many time were we there before our conversion. In one of the service the pastor preached the Atonement of Jesus Christ for our sin. At the end of the service, when we were asked whether should we accept Jesus as our savior, with tears, I raised my hand. I do not know whether did Steven raised his or not as my eyes were closed, but we started to be excited about Jesus Christ and the church since then.

Passion for Theology
No long after my conversion, I took up a diploma course in Buddhism at the International Buddhist College, as suggested by my mother. My motivation is to understand more about the faith that I used to embrace. I was still attracted to the profundity of the Buddhist faith. After attending the classes for about 6 to 9 months, my interest in Buddhism started to fade. I felt the subjects taught in the class started to be irrelevant to me. I thought I could relate more to that faith through the course, which was the reason why I took it up, but I was wrong. The more I listened to the lecturer, I more I could not make sense of the faith. I gave up without completing the course.

After a year-contract with Star Cruises, I came to Singapore in December 2003 for a job. The hiring manager tricked me into this job during one of his recruitment in Penang. It did not take long for me to realize that the position ‘Customer Service Officer’ that I applied for is a door-to-door sales job. Heavy-heartedly I persevered in that job for 6 months so that I could return a sum of money I owed to my parents. It was in the third month in this job that I read C.S Lewis’ Mere Christianity, which was recommended by Steven.

For the very first time I got to know that the faith that I’m embracing can be articulated so reasonably and relevantly. Since then I picked up reading as a hobby. My theological odyssey was boosted in July that year when Srimal, an intern with ORPC, introduced Lee Strobel’s Case For Christ to the young adult fellowship which I attend regularly. Long story cut short, from apologetic, I was led to theology, to reformed theology, then finally to my current interest, biblical hermeneutics and history.

Orchard Road Presbyterian Church
I started attending ORPC in January 2004. In July that year I got involved in leading Bible studies for the youth. Back then I was attached with a Bible study small group every Sunday after the morning service. But my involvement in the youth ministry did not allowed time for me to attend the small group regularly. So I left the small group.
I had my membership transferred to the church in 2006.

Agora Singapore
Agora Singapore is a theological ‘chit-chat’ group founded by 5 five lay Christians in November 2005 to which I am coordinating. The vision for this group is to promote and cultivate a theological community that could live out holistic Christian life. The group also provides a ground for theological discussion among lay Christians from various denominations. (http://theagorasg.blogspot.com/)

The Call
St. Paul received his conversional call on his way to Damascus and started his mission work 3 (or so) years after that, while I was spared from such an immediate call. After receiving Christ, gradually, I came to recognize my call to a theological-oriented vocation.

If I am asked of how convicted I am to this call, I would confess that I do not have a
100 % perfect assurance that this is what God wants me to do. Making a living with such vocation is most of all my desire. I am always fascinated with Life. It is only after my conversion to Christianity that I realized theology is the map to understand Life. Hence, now, I am fascinated with theology.

I find myself contending with Dr. Robert Funk’s radical theses that ‘The God of the metaphysical age is dead …We must reckon with a deep crisis in god talk and replace it with talk about whether the universe has meaning and whether human life has purpose’.
I think if we abandon theology or God-talk, and try to venture onto anything at all, without first getting our theology right is futile.

Secondly I recognize the talents that I am stewarding for God. No doubt the passion for theology is also God-given yet there is a notion that God has granted me to sharpen and serve Him with. The notion that I am referring to is the cognitive faculty. I am not smart (which my primary and secondary education tell), but I recognize that God is using this faculty of mine to help others and (especially) myself in our pilgrimage to love and know Him more.

The third sign that I derived to understand my calling is from the acknowledgements from close Christian friends. Steven is one that always encourages me to pursue this vocation. Apart from that, I received acknowledgement from the other young adults and small group leaders in the ORPC. Not least, from my colleagues and my non-Christian parents too.

Vision of Ministry
Honestly I am not sure how will my theological training will be and how and where will I further it. Though with many uncertainties, I foresee my ministry to be academic on one hand and develop a God-centered community that respond to the needs of world on another. My desire is to see Christians that are able to engage with the secular people and direct them to Jesus Christ through their holistic lives. Having these in mind, there is one ministry that cannot be neglected and should be prioritized. That's the building of a God-loving, Christ-centred family.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Disappointed with Najib Tun Razak

"I am more inclined to view Bangsa Malaysia as a state of mind to eradicate social prejudices and differences among the races. If we accept this and avoid polemics on definition, we can avoid arousing controversies."

I'm not sure whether can the Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak still say the same if he belongs to the marginalised. Eradicating social prejudices and differences among the races is not a matter of the state of the mind. Wake up DPM! Stop dreaming at the la-la land. There is marginalisation in the society. No one can deny that. The under-priviledged groups are trying to improve their living condition, fighting for their own rights, believing trans-racial justice can be met. And that's the reason why we need a government who would treat each race and ethnic groups equaly.

If it's just a state of the mind, why then the over-reaction being mounted by the priviledged group when the marginalised tries to leverage the benefit distribution among the nations? Doesn't it seems like one's slapping one's mouth here?

On one hand, he is gesturing to calm the marginalised, with the other, he is keeping the borders of the under-priviledged groups in tact. Is this the way a leader cares for his nation when inequality is being experienced by the people generation after generation?

Remember the golden rule? It always keep one on track of what is fair and not fair:
"Do unto others what you want others do unto you"

The nation needs a leader not someone who gibberishes. "...avoid polemics on definition, we can avoid arousing controversies"?? His statement is as controversial as any other issues troubling the nations.

Interview With Dr. E

Woke up at 6.30am this morning and got myself tidied before meeting Dr. E at 8am. Rushed and prayed all the way to the place because the time wasn't friendly, as being shown on my watch. Glad that the route was safe and smooth. Thus i reached there on time, though one or two minutes late.

Dr. E was already there waiting. We shook hands and he invited me to the meeting room for chat. The chat lasted for about an hour. He was friendly, open, and blunt. I was honest, transparent, and respectful.

It was only 8.40am (my estimation) when Dr. E asked me 2 BIG questions: "Why do you think it is necessary for Jesus Christ to be 100% human and 100% divine? And can you briefly share the passages that hint on the 'trinity-ness' of God in the OT?"

I think i did well on the first question where as the second one is kind of impossible. Here were my responds:

Jesus Christ necessarily be 100% human because only by that, He is able to relate and fully symphatize with human in our weakness, suffering, pain, brokeness and all sort of evil that we, fallen humans, experience. I was refering to Romans 8.1-4 (His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh) and Jurgen Moltmann's theology of hope.

He has to be 100% divine because it is necessary for us to listen to someone who is super-human. Founders of other religion are merely human and if Jesus Christ is just another mere human, why should i give Him my ears? To coin an allegory (i had this allegory in mind but didn't share with Dr. E): all humans are trapped in an enclosed box, the only things that we know are those things within the enclosed box. We might also think that we are well in the box while in reality we are trapped and imprisoned there. If ever a transcendant truth is to be known by us about our own condition has to come from someone who is outside the box. Someone who can see us from a point of view that we cannot see ourselves. And if ever this someone came to tell us something, then He is someone that we should listen to.

Then Dr. E responded that he will 'fine-tune' the last part of my reply (the one on Jesus' 100% divinity). I anticipated excitedly.

He said,"Jesus Christ has to be 100% divine because only a lamb that is without blemish would be worthy to be the perfect sacrifice for God's judgement. So being 100% divine, He is the perfect sacrifice."

With all respect to Dr. E, I don't think that fine-tuned any of my reply. That only shows the necessity for Jesus to be 100% human so that He could, in human form, represents us on the altar to be sacrificed as the price to purchase our salvation.

My answer to the second questions was reference to Genesis (God's spirit hover over the water and God said "Let us make man..") and Daniel 7 (God's everlasting kingdom being established). When i finished replying, in my mind, i knew that i did badly on the Daniel part because i dont really think that hint anything on the trinity-ness within God but referred to the coming of a person who is somehow equivalent with God, perhaps God himself. But my point is that there isn't any passages in the OT that hint on the tri-personhood of God. There are passages on the plurality within one Godhead but not an explicit description of 3 persons in that head.

Dr. E suggested that Genesis 3.15 (... I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel...) answered his question. But then again, with all respect, that doesn't answer anything. The text merely says that God will make Eve's child and the serpent's child hate and destroy one another (some might differentiate that 'crush your head' is deadly while 'strike his heel' is not as deadly but it is clear that the ancient knows that a serpent's strike is as deadly - Numbers 21.6).

Anyway the meeting ended at around 9.10am. I went home and called Nalika before get on with homework.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Books on Jesus

The world is sick with critically unorthodox, sometimes distorted, portraits of Jesus. Hence some unique people raised by God had rolled up their sleeves and brought forth the old sweet Jesus back to the center of the scholar hall.

1) Darrell Bock: The Missing Gospels
2) J. Ed Komoszewski. M. James Sawyer. Daniel B. Wallace: Reinventing Jesus
3) N.T Wright: Judas and the Gospel of Jesus
4) Larry W. Hurtado: The Earliest Christian Artifacts
5) Craig A. Evans: Fabricating Jesus
6) Richard Bauckham: Jesus and the Eyewitnesses
7) Ben Witherington III: What Have They Done With Jesus?

These 7 books were written so that the orthodox Christians can celebrate this year's Christmas, without the need to deny the true joy of the season or to leave our brains at the church's doorstep during Christmas services/mass. Better still, these books give us more reason to celebrate.

May God continue to bless these people. Give them many more years ahead, wisdom, boldness, courage, and, most of all, the joy to see the glory of our Lord.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sally's Moment

Who? Sally?

Yes, Sally. A nice girl that i met 4 years ago when i was laboring part time at England Optical, Gurney Plaza. She was a personnel from Focus Point, the arch-enemy of England Optical. I dated her for a very short period but decided to give up reasonably, but not because she was bad.

So, what's a 'Sally's Moment'?

Well... the vivid memory is the one during 2002 Chinese New Year. The setting was a beach during dusk, with a bottle of red wine and a nice weather. We talked. She cried. My shoulder was borrowed. My heart thumped heavilly the whole time. Feelings were strong but ambiguous.

It's more than that but the details are best to be buried. Those feelings are best to be sealed. This is 'Sally's Moment'. When feelings had to be dealt through struggles, pains, and sleepless nights just to forget someone... no... should be to forget how we feel towards someone. Sally's moment.


Side note: Naomi posted a good write up on 'Platonic relationship', that is the intimate friendship between two persons of opposite gender.