Monday, March 26, 2007

God Exists?

The whole of last week was terrible for me. To relate, you'll have to imagine being shouldering the burdens which are no less than Atlas'. I couldn't read nor write. Just feel very bad, especially in the weekend.

As Christians, in bad times, we usually turn to God for help or to lament or to throw it out on Him. I tried doing that too but the things that i read numbed my reflexes and i found myself scathing in turning to God. The refusal is not due to my arrogance of not wanting to make my plea as a child to his parent, but doubt to have a parent there at all.

Why didn't i look for help? I did, not from people, but the 'spirit of truth'. I dont mean the Holy Spirit. It's the 'inclination or tendency for truth'.

It's clear that this matter is about the truth. Thus there's no point looking else where for help. Besides, part of the reluctant was due to my assumption that the responds from fellow Christians will be something like "You need to have a leap of faith... can't be a modernist with solid foundation to knowing God... must have faith... read the famous 'faith' passage in the epistle to the Hebrews.."

This i knoW! Hey, I tell people these!

The 'faith' passage in Hebrews? Ahh.... you mean the letter which was written by some obscure nameless stranger addressing some group of hard-living folks more than 1900 years ago! And by the way, the 'faith' statement in that epistle is meant only to the ancient (specific time) Hebrew (specific ethnic) people! Means those people who already assumed that God exists. The passage wouldn't have any relevance to me. Nope, i dont think it does. And by the way, i dont remember what was the exact phrase and the verse number, except that the passage is on the need to have faith.... Neither could i care less to turn the concordance.

And so I go on living as if there is still some sort of ultimate meaning in life. The mind kept thinking about Nietzsche. Not that i read any of his substantial work before, but his famous phrase was hovering over my head: 'God is dead... And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?'

I was struggling. And i know very very clearly that this is my own struggle. My private war. No one can help, no one can give a hand, no one can show a passage. I was alone with Nietzsche.

The moment I explored on the possibility that the Bible could be true, that there is God, words like 'editors', 'diachronic', 'synchronic', 'historical-critical constraint', 'pseudo-theology', 'form', ‘Matthew 27’, 'Bultmann', 'Bultmann', 'Bultmann' ceaselessly came to mind. I knew that if i dont get out, i'll die. No one that i want turn to. I was left alone with Nietzsche.

Nevertheless, in the midst of all that, there was a small spark seemingly anchoring my theism. As dim as this spark was, it managed to retain some sort of theistic belief in me. This spark was one that enlightened me 3 years ago. It made a come back. But this time it did not clear the cloud and shine forth the elegance of Christianity as it once did. All it can do now is to put me back into my theistic shoes but not Christianity. I'm talking about C.S Lewis' morality argument for the existence of God in Mere Christianity. During that whole time, that 'faith' passage in the epistle to the Hebrews came up. I didn't really care. After some time, when the passage didn't go away, I started to feel annoyed!
With a sigh, i thought of checking out the verse. To read it again to see what is it really about. Two concordances, one NIV, one ESV, one NRSV, and one NKJV were just within grasp. But then, it seems to me, being oblivious is the more reasonable option. Dont waste my time, so i thought.

And the weekend passed, then came Sunday. Guess what, I was supposed to lead a Bible study group that morning! I didn't know why was i dragging myself to church. In such conviction, there is no reason left for such discipline. I dont know. Perhaps, I still harbour the hope that i will find an asnwer. But i didn't care anymore. Perhaps, i've a sense of responsibility for the group. I shouldnt abandon the group just like that because of my sudden conversion. And thus, i've joined the liberal camp that morning. That's the best i could be in order to fulfill my duty, to lead Bible Study. As a liberal, i can talk with much knowledge of the Bible and yet without having to acknowledge the veracity of it. At that time, that vague and irritating 'faith' passage came again. My guess was that there are still some parts in me rejecting my new stance and appealling for a reconsideration. But i need nothing less than a miracle for reconsideration.

On my way to the service, I thought of reading the Hebrews passage to clear the vagueness of the verse and to set the record straight once and for all. If i wanted, i could just flip through the ESV which was in my sling bag. But i didn't. Because even though i read and understand it rightly, it wouldnt change the fact that this passage has no relevance to me. And so, i thought. And so, i went to church.

While waiting for the service to start, i didn't pray. Didn't care to. Laura Or was the worship leader that day. She walked up to the pulpit to start her duty. I was sitting down there, on the second row from the pulpit, alone with Nietzsche. I look around the chapel to see the faces of believers. I had no sympathy nor any feelings. I observed myself.

The service starts. Laura made her welcoming speech, as usual. That's the liturgy of the youth service. The worship leader will welcome the congregation. Then there will be a short prayer and worship-songs singing before proceeding to annoucement and, after that, Bible study. During the worship, unfailingly, the worship leader will lead the congregation with any one passage or passages from the Bible, to meditation, to prayer, or just as an encouragement-as though the Bible is an all-in-all inspirational manual.

As that time came, Laura read:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him
Hebrews 11.6

And I stunned.

Theological debate on God ceased speaking to His people, what is this?

That morning, I ended up leading the group to see Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Theology of Break-Ups

No-offence intended but i find this the humorous side of doing theology! From Steven Harris

Atheist: The burden of proof is on you to establish the existence of this so-called "god" but I believe that if there was any such divine entity "it" would not want us to continue dating.

Intelligent Design Theorist: Our relationship bears the marks of irreducible complexity making it too difficult to explain by way of natural causes. Therefore, there the most reasonable conclusion is that we were designed to break up since things have gotten so complicated.

Calvinist: We were predestined before the creation of the world to break up according to God's good pleasure. I am, on my own power, unable to break up with you apart from the irresistible draw of God's sovereign grace which leads me to end this relationship. Those that truly break up will not get back together in the end.

Arminian: While you love me and have a wonderful plan for my life, I have the power to resist your will. If I did not, love would not be possible. For our relationship to be loving it needs to include the possibility of breaking up--something I am doing right now.

New Perspective on Paul Scholar: Rather than earning God's blessing, it is established on the basis of our covenant courtship (I asked your dad to date you didn't I?) which requires the proper response of an intentional and deliberate pursuit of marriage. Yet there is no such pursuit, therefore God's blessing on or relationship is no longer maintained.

Open Theist: I am not really sure if we are supposed to be together, because neither is God.

Theistic Evolutionist: The beauty and rhythm of random variation and natural selection over long periods of time has presented us with a world where God has shown us that our relationship is too biologically expensive to maintain and is destined for extinction.

Young Earth Creationist: No, I do not believe we have been going out for that long. Our relationship is only six days old and the on the seventh God rested. I think we need a rest too.

Emergent: The question if whether we are in relationship or not is mired in Modernity's obsession with propositional truth. A better a way to look at this is to enter into God's story about how he lead us together and is now leading us apart.

Catholic: Honey, I think the Virgin Mary is leading us in different directions. I think it is her will that we break up. (lame)

Lutheran: I want our relationship to continue, but first there are a few things about you that God wants to change. Here is a list of 95 that I made. What? OK, then, I guess we're done.

Episcopalian: Ummm... I'm gay.

Fundamentalist: You have tarnished the pure nature of our love by incorporating such heathen elements as "dating" and "fun." I am afraid I can no longer court you--yea, even speak to you--until you repent of this apostasy.

Mennonite: At that holiest barn raising two weeks prior to this conversational exchange, I realized as I drove you home at sunset in my best carriage, that there are other falsettos in the choir; some that art willing, with all fervent spirit, to trimmest my beard and even my eyebrows on such special occasion, and would, though it hurts me to spake this, make a more holy match.

Friday, March 02, 2007

What A Small Remark Can Do

Two days ago, i was thinking through New Testament scholarship, in a nutshell (katak punya tempurung), with NT Wright's short remark on the synoptic problem. He said that the differences among the gospel narratives should not be a problem in current scholarship. Given the fact that now we have the techonology to be more consistent in our speeches but still we express our ideas differently at different meetings/places. If that is true for now, it is definitely prevalent (if not more) in the past. It is certainly plausible for Jesus to say the same thing with different way of saying it, at different places throughout his ministry.

That simple remark prompt me to think 'out of the box' on current New Testament scholarship. It shows that it is possible to go away from the flow of the scholar guild but yet remain credible. Of course Wright has more than a small remark that makes his scholarship outstand (for eg. his double similarities criteria), if that remark has any significance, it definitely has boasted my confident and creativity. Because of this i've thought of a criteria to actually argue for a very early date for the gospel of John (or at least some sort of 'primitive' John). If that method is right, and God willing, John's gospel could dated to be pre-synoptic and pauline, if not pre-pauline. That means a mature and comprehensive (substantially) written Christological tradition was already in existent within the early Church, say between 4-18 years after the crucifixion. This written tradition is some sort of Q, which i call 'PJ' (Primitive John). If Q is the source for Matthew and Luke, then PJ is the source for John. Of course, this is based on the assumption that John is independent from the synoptics, or i should say the synoptics are independent from John.

N.T Wright's Bio

A hardwork from a fellow blogger Alastair: For those who are interested to know more about the Bishop of Durham

"Throughout his scholarly career, Wright has been concerned to relate his theology to the person in the pew and has produced a steady stream of devotional works, popular commentaries and works on discipleship, worship and popular theology. This, coupled with his great gift of communication, has led to his works being read by lay people, clergy and scholars alike."