Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sex, Cross, and Christ

Love without sex is a crossless Christ. Sex without love is a Christless cross. When Christ is nailed to the cross, we get climax.

No longer INFP; I'm now...

This year March, I took the Myer-Briggs and being categorized as INFP. I just took another round yesterday and realized that I'm a changed person. As listed in Facebook's My Type test:

The Visionary
Extroverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving

While reading through the description, I start wondering if this is really me. This website lists some of the jobs that suit an ENTP:

Lawyers (No chance)
Psychologists (No chance)
Entrepreneurs (Possible)
Photographers (No chance)
Consultants (Consult what?)
Engineers (Probably not)
Scientists (Theologian consider one?)
Actors (Involving in a stage-drama)
Sales Representatives (This is what I'm doing!)
Marketing Personnel (This is what I'm doing too!)
Computer Programmer, Systems Analyst, or Computer Specialist (Blogging??)

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 gets another second


That's how this year's year-end countdown will be like. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) announced that there will be a leap second added to end this year.

For those who will be reading at 11.59:59pm on 31st Dec 2008, they will get to read another word. If they know speed-read, they will get to glance through another sentence.

For those die-hard romanticists who plan to kiss over-year will have a second longer to swallow the saliva (or whatever) of the other person this year.

I will probably savor another second of sleep :)

What ya gonna do wif dat xtra sec?

Sze Zeng's favourite quotes on 'love'

"Love means loving the unlovable - or it is no virtue at all." (G.K Chesterton)

"If you say, I love you, then you have already fallen in love with language, which is already a form of break up and infidelity." (J. Baudrillard)

"Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." (C.S Lewis)

"A man in love is incomplete until he has married. Then he's finished." (Zsa Zsa Gabor)

"If I love you, what business is it of yours?" (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

"While God waits for His temple to be built of love, men bring stones." (Rabindranath Tagore)

OK.... and here is my take:

Love is like water that we can't live without. The more we drink, the more we pee. Thus shopping malls sell drinks and provide toilets.

How about you? What's your take?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Robin Leaver’s Lecture

"Music and Theology in the Vocal Works of Bach"

Date: 3rd March 2009, Tuesday

Tel: 6767 5258

About the speaker:

Professor of sacred music at Westminster Choir College.

Theol.Dip., Trinity College, Bristol, England; D.theol. cum laude Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, the Netherlands. Studied with A. Casper Honders. Recipient, Winston Churchill Fellowship (1971); honorary member of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute (1973); first recipient of the Dominick A. Iorio Faculty Research Prize, Rider University (1997); Honorary Fellow of the Academy of St Celilia, London (2001).

President of the American Bach Society (2000-2004); President of the Internationale Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Hymnologie (1985-89); board of directors, Charles Wesley Society (1989-1999); Member of Scholarly Advisory Committee for the Kessler Reformation Collection, Pitts Theology Library, Emory University (1995-).

Author of more than 25 books, including Bachs theologische Bibliothek (1983), J.S. Bach and Scripture (1985), The Theological Character of Music in Worship (1989), "Goostly psalmes and spirituall songes": English and Dutch Metrical Psalters from Coverdale to Utenhove 1535-1566 (1991), Come to the Feast: The Original and Translated Hymns of Martin H. Franzman (1994) and (with Joyce Ann Zimmerman) Liturgy and Music: Lifetime Learning (1998).

Contributor to many reference and other books, including The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980, and the second edition, 2001), The New Grove Dictionary of American Music (1986), the 4th edition of The Harvard Dictionary of Music (2003), and The Hymnal 1982 Companion (1990-95).

Author of more than 200 articles and reviews in journals issued in England, Germany, the Netherlands, Africa, Korea, Japan, as well as the United States, including American Organist, Bach-Jahrbuch, Early Music, Choral Journal, Choral Review, MLA Notes, Musik und Kirche, Reformed Liturgy and Music, Worship, etc.

Editor of the series Studies in Liturgical Musicology (1994- ); co-editor of the series Drew Liturgical Studies (1996-2004); contributing editor to Jahrbuch für Liturgik und Hymnologie (1976-), The Hymnology Annual (1989-), and editorial consultant for liturgy and church music for the new edition of Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart.

Active participant in national and international symposia including the Bach-Akademie, Stuttgart, Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, The Newberry Library, Chicago, and the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam; and other institutions in Europe, Korea, Japan and New Zealand.

Author of program/liner notes and/or pre-concert lecturer for the Taverner Choir and Players, London; the Early Music Centre, London; the English Bach Festival, London; The Gabrieli Consort, England; The Bach Choir of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; The Berkeley Festival, California; etc.; and for such conductors as Flummerfelt, Funfgeld, Leonhardt, McCreesh, Parrott, Shaw, among others.

Experienced in pastoral and church music ministries. Consultant to the British Broadcasting Corporation, London; Oxford University Press; and to the editorial committees that produced the Episcopal Hymnal 1982 (1985), The United Methodist Hymnal (1989), Evangelisches Gesangbuch (1993), and the Moravian Book of Worship (1995).

Listed in Contemporary Authors, Dictionary of International Biography, Who's Who in America, and similar reference works. Faculty, Latimer House, Oxford, England (1977-84); Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, England (1984-85); Visiting professor of liturgy, Drew University (1988-2002); Visiting professor of music history, The Juilliard School (2002- ). Westminster Choir College of Rider University (1984-).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christians and their mind

John Sung is no doubt one of the greatest Asian evangelist, but is his approach to vocation a model for subsequent generations?

Timothy Tow wrote a short biography of John Sung. He recorded the incident when John Sung, while on his way back to China from America, dumped all his academic degrees into the sea.

Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong has often announced his great admiration of John Sung and mentioned this incident as some sort of highlight or an honorable Christian act.

This is rather puzzling as Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong himself is a Reformed theologian who adheres the great tradition of the Cultural Mandate. Cultural Mandate is the belief in the ordained vocation to engage with external-church issues such as in the academia, parliament, or factory. And those who believe in Cultural Mandate place significant emphasis on academic achievements or at least the extensive exercise of the mind. Thus throwing academic degrees away is anything but a symbol that overturns of the aspiration of Cultural Mandate.

My own opinion is that John Sung remains a great evangelist. His approach to Christian vocation and calling should not be a norm or model for Christians. In fact, I am surprised that John Sung, who earned a doctorate in Chemistry, failed to grasp the bigger divine vision mediated through the Bible to us.

Karl Barth was living in the same era and bombarded by the academia in one way or another in the same way as John Sung. But he did not think it necessary to throw away his degrees. Barth was not only a preacher, he was served in the army at the age of 50+ to defy the Nazi, drafted the Barmen declaration to counter liberal theology, continue to serve as a Christian educator all his life. And Barth does not have a doctorate in natural sciences.

Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong and those who adhere to the Cultural Mandate have another more sympathetic option to pick.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry one!

The upcoming Christmas, the symbol of the Incarnation, again situates us back to the centre of history past and future. The Creation anticipated the Incarnation, the Incarnation anticipated the Resurrection, and the Resurrection is now anticipating the renewed-Creation: The past, present, and future. The Incarnation is the 'present', thus it is a 'gift'. A gift of renewal, recalling, and re-alive. It's like the first dawn in an ever darkened night, or the first sip of water after an ever thirsty noon.

"Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing; O come, let us adore him, o come, let us adore him, o come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord." (extract from 'O Come all ye faithful')

Indeed, Christmas is telling... So may you have a merry one.

TTC-Yale Student Exchange

Reported in Trinity Theological College's Trumpet Newsletter:
Yale Divinity School and TTC have entered into an exciting partnership which allows for student exchange between the two institutions… This exchange program is slated to start in the second half of 2009. Initially, it will be confined to the MDiv students… Selected students will spend a semester in the respective institutions…” (p.10)
That's where the (in)famous Yale-school theology resides. Now they even have an ex-prime minister as lecturer, namely Tony Blair.

Too bad for those who are pursuing a B.Div like me… no chance to get these celebrities' autograph... *tsk tsk~~

Monday, December 22, 2008

Prof. Gordon Wong, the Bishop William F. Oldham Chair of Old Testament

Trinity Theological College's Prof. Gordon Wong will be inducted to the Professorial Chair and present the inaugural lecture.

Reported from TTC's latest Trumpet Newsletter:
This will be the fourth professorial chair endowed to TTC, completing the Chen Su Lan Chair of New Testament, the Ernest Lau Chair of Systematic Theology and the Chew Hock Hin Chair of Christian Doctrine. We welcome enquiries on how your family or church might be able to establish a future Professorial Chair for our college.
(Take note the added italics! p.11)

The inauguration service details:

Date: 4th February 2009, Wednesday

Venue: Trinity Theological College, Chapel
Time: 8pm

Saturday, December 20, 2008

'Evangelical' identity crisis?

Once in a while you will start questioning who are you, or which side do you belong to in your faith-community? Are you a 'conservative'? A 'liberal'?

An Evangelical? Left or Right Evangelical?

Michael Bird exercised some ethnicity categorization within the 'Reformed Evangelical'. He listed 8 characteristics of a group that think themselves as 'Reformed':
(1) They are more excited about all the things that they are against than anything that they are for;

(2) They preach justification by faith, but in actuality practice justification by polemics;

(3) They appear to believe in the inerrancy of a confession over the suffiency of the gospel;

(4) They believe in the doctrines of grace, but do not treat others with grace;

(5) They believe that unity is overrated;

(6) They like doctrines about Jesus more than Jesus himself (and always defer to the Epistles over the Gospels);

(7) mission means importing their debates and factions to other churches; and

(8) The word "adiaphora" is considered an almost expletive.
It would be interesting if Bird give some names. But he knows it's dangerous to be politically incorrect. If he did, he will have to skip some of his classes just to respond to critics.

On the other hand, John Stackhouse from Regent College, was asking when is a conservative Evangelical not conservative. In the post, he highlighted something interesting about F.F. Bruce, who is regarded as the 'dean of Evangelical Biblical scholars':
The late, great New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce refused to call himself a “conservative evangelical,” because he wanted to follow the Bible wherever it led, whether it confirmed “conservative” opinion or not.
That tempted me to refused to call myself "conservative Christian", as I want to follow wherever the on-going discovery of God and the stuffs in his world.

If you ask me whether do I care to see myself as an 'Evangelical', honestly, that doesn't bother. Neither should it on you. Our social identity is sealed in someone more profound than demographic labels, right?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Value = Utilitarian or Intrinsic?

Perhaps this piece of humor has a hint:

A man approaches a beautiful woman in a bar, and without any small talk, asks her, "Will you sleep with me for a million dollars?" The woman took some time and after some thought says, "Yes, I will."

The man responds, "Great. OK, how about for twenty dollars?" The woman looks indignant and replies sternly, "Of course not. What kind of a woman do you think I am?"

The man replies, "We've settled that. Now we are just negotiating the price."

(I first read this from Kishore Mahbubani's 'Can Asians Think?', but this extract is edited from this website.)

Don't just laugh, ponder the question too :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adultery is individual rights?

In this particular post, I shall qualify the term 'adultery' to 'having extra-marital sex without the consent of the spouse, if any, of both parties'. (This doesn't mean I'm OK with "open-relationship" or "swinger-couple". I qualify it for the sake of argument)

Just today, there is this case that a woman trying to justify her adultery act by arguing for 'right of individual choice in sexual relations'. Her neglectful husband did not consent over her extra-marital sexual activities, hence I deem this as a case of 'adultery'.

The Australian reports
BBC reports

What is alarming is that the person involved in the adulterous act argues for a right to have extra-marital sex. And she sublimes it as 'individual's rights'.

Could this be another by-effect of Mill's utilitarian view of ethics, though not necessary has any direct link with Mill?

I think as long as we maintain status quo with the current valuation of ethics based on 'individuals' right', our current political discourse is nothing short of the domestication of 'rights'. Anyone from anywhere can argue for any 'rights'.

Hence, if we want to continue to talk about 'rights', we need to look elsewhere.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Anything goes as long as no harm on others?

"The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign." (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty)

In other word, Mill is saying that an individual can do anything as long as his/her action does not harm others. That 'anything' includes anything that he/she does on his/herself.

A postfoundationalist like 'lim peh'(Hokkien: myself) will say that one cannot make a sure judgment on the (butterfly) effects of one's action have on others, especially within our myriad existent. And this is our inability. Hence that means one's action cannot be justified by our inability to conceive the effect.

Mill's suggestion is only true if the individual has absolute certainty over the effects of one's action. This presupposition is not unusual among pre-postmodern (not necessary 'modern') discourse.

Given our current awareness (thanks to postmodern thinkers) of context and the essentially interdependent socio-political forces operating in society, we can hardly and simply be 'independent'.

Let me draw an illustration from current economic crisis.

It started with Mr. and Mrs. Individuals who lives at a certain town in America. They have some saving and they aspire to enlarge their savings by investing in property. So they took up a loan from a local bank for the mortgage of the property.

The local bank mortgage manager, typically by the same name Ms. Individual, approved the loan of the couple. "What's wrong by loaning out money to those who need it to acquire a property? It helps them, the company that I'm working in, and a good appraisal for myself at the end of the year," thought Ms. Individual.

The mortgage manager's superior is happy with her excelling in her job. The superior feedback to the director of the company. The director is happy with the job and told his congressman friends. The congressmen delighted over the system of giving loan to help Mr. and Mrs. Individuals to acquire asset.

Such generousity spread through the layers of the society, from the congress to the director, to the superior, to the mortgage manager, to Mr. and Mrs. Individuals.

Little did everyone along this line of 'generousity' take note that there are millions of others who are like Mr. and Mrs. Individuals, hundred of thousands of others who are like Ms. Individual, thousands of other who are like Ms. Individual's superior, and hundreds of others who are like the director of the company doing the same thing.

All of these people acted in their own independent way, without intending harm on any one. Realizing Mill's dream.

And the rest is a long chain of effects. First we had the property bubble in America for about 2 years. Then followed by financial crisis in the states. Then Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on 15 September 2008 at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York. Then just approximately two months later the strongest bank in South East Asia, the DBS Bank located at the Shenton Way reported that it has retrenched 900 of its staffs.

And unknowingly to Mr. and Mrs. Individuals in the U.S, there is also an expatriate by the same name lost his job at DBS.

Get it?

The example is just to modestly illustrate that we just could not be certain of the (butterfly) effects that an individual's sovereign act over him/herself have on others. Therefore Mill's suggestion that an individual's liberty should be measured and limited by its effects is invalid and unhelpful, especially in political discourse.

Simply put, Mill said that our ethics should hinge on the no-harm-on-others principle. He presupposed that we are able to conceive the effects of our individual's actions.

But I say to Mill that you can't be sure of the limit and degree of the harm, and you may not see its harmful effect at all. Hence your suggestion is not justifiable. Shouldn't that hold us back rather than opening up the gates of free-action?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

First the nonsense; now the lawsuit... sigh

Nonsense like the Verbal Plenary Preservation (VPP) is not only anti-intellect, it is anti-Christ. Simply put, VPP means 'the belief that the infallible and inerrant words of Scripture are found in the Traditional/Byzantine/Majority manuscripts and fully represented in the Printed and Received Text (Textus Receptus) that underlie the Reformation Bibles best represented by the King James Version', according to Edmond Chua from Christian Post (Singapore).

Because of this nonsense, a local church has launched a lawsuit against the bible college, which holds this nonsense, located within the church premise.

VPP is laughable; the lawsuit is mournful.

Christ's Kingdom: Culture and Politics

I bought a few books yesterday, 3 of them on the relation between Christianity and culture. One of them is by celebrity scholar D.A Carson titled 'Christ and Culture Revisited', the other one is a porn book by Michael Leahy, and the third one is Culture Making by Andy Crouch.

During the interval of my over-time work in the evening, I read Crouch's book. It was refreshing as Crouch approach the issue from a sociological approach. So far, until page 50, he approach the issue sufficiently realistic.

Realistic in the sense that he understand well that 'culture', like 'nature', is a given. It makes no sense to talk about culture from a cultural-neutral point of view as it makes no sense to examine culture without realizing that we are already a product of certain culture which overlapped by various cultures.

When flipping through the index pages of the book, I don't find the mention of 'Robert Jenson'. I think Jenson's work on this issue is very relevant. So far, Jenson come across to me as the only one who explicitly denounce the celebrated and much-praised book 'Christ & Culture' by H. Richard Niebuhr as posing a 'pseudo-problem' (see his article recently published in Public Theology in Cultural Engagement).

Compared with Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth, I find Crouch did a more extensive and illuminating job. For eg. Crouch approaches the analysis of culture through his 5 questions on culture is more context-oriented, hence more self-critical and modest. Compared to Pearcey's worldview questions which take context lightly and often venture directly for meta-narratives.

Anyway, this post is not merely about Crouch's book. After reading that book, I googled the title and found a 'tumblelog' site for the book. And through the tumblelog, I came to this site on politics: The Center for Public Justice. After browsing through it, I think it's good to share with my readers here who are interested in exploring the relation between their faith to Christ and politics.

Yet, we have to approach these materials not without a critical mind. We can't import everything from them. Not everything propounded in these works have direct relevance to Asian Christians.

For one to start learning how to dialogue and engage with these works, which are mainly produced in a Western culture, I'm glad to commend Kishore Mahbubani's 'Can Asians Think?'. Though some of the points contained in some of the essays are dated, yet reading it helps to hold us from drinking everything from the West as if those are elixir of life.

Chapter 14: No More Consciousness Of Sin

Caution Point 1: Joseph Prince (JP) emphasize that preachers of grace (like himself) do not preach about “do’s” and “don’ts” in the church, yet he himself preaches it. Is JP being self-contradicting?

JP wrote,

The world needs to hear this truth, and not be given a bunch of do’s and don’ts. Preach the truth and the world will come flocking to churches for their answers.” (p.171)

A few pages later, we find JP telling his reader to observe some ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’,

You can try not to be sin-conscious all you like, but you will not succeed simply because you are living in sin (for example, staying in an adulterous affair with no desire to terminate it). Get out of that lifestyle of sin by the grace of God!
(Emphasis added, p.181)

Caution Point 2: JP’s teaching on salvation is doubtful.

After writing about Christ has ‘overpaid’ for our debts, JP went on to ask, “If you don’t believe the good news, is your debt still paid?… If you refuse to believe that your debt has already been paid, is it still paid?” (p.184)

In other words, JP is asking about those who don’t believe in what Christ has done for them; are their sins being forgiven?

And surprisingly, JP answered, “Yes! Your unbelief does not change the fact that your debt has been fully paid. BUT your unbelief means that you will still have debt on your conscience, and this will affect you negatively…” (p.185)

First of all Scripture tells us that our relationship with God is being damaged by our sins. Hence we owe God justice. Then Christ came and redeemed us. His works of redemption has paid God all the justice that we owe God. Through Christ, we have reconciled back to God. Through Christ, we are justified (Gal. 2.16).

So does JP mean that the sins of those who do not believe or have faith in Christ are also being forgiven? If so, then does that mean they are also saved?

If yes, then JP is saying that it is not necessary for someone to believe in Jesus to be saved. But isn’t this the universalism that JP crudely condemned?

If not, then JP is putting himself in contradiction.

Click here to go to the Contents page of this review series.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kar Yong's latest post on the individualistic Christians' perspective on finances and well-being is alarming. I would like to draw from his message to ask a different question: Are we still closing our eyes so that we can give $200 MP3 player as Christmas gift to our friends whose life-quality does not diminish in any way, rather than giving $50 to those whose living condition can be improved in small ways?

Miki from TechMission has alerted me to their works in helping those who are under-resourced. These needy individuals face economic crisis all their lives unless we reach out.

Instead of trying to please our friends who are not dying of hunger with unnecessary gifts (I once received an cigarette-tray as Christmas gift!!), we can consider helping out those who need help?

This article from Sojourners illustrates how can internet-technology help the under-resourced communities. Take a look and discover something new.

Shoe throwing a trend?

An Iraqi journalist stood up and shouted, "This is a goodbye kiss, you dog," at the U.S President before he hurled his shoes at him this morning.

You can watch it at BBC website:

Now, there might be 2 trends surging after this:

1) After today, those who are attending press conferences in a confined room with the U.S President will be required to be barefooted.

2) There will be a surging trend among protesters to throw shoes at their unpopular politicians. MalaysiaKini and Malaysia Today might want to consider encouraging their journalists to wear boots.

'The Jesus Project'

This much talked about yet ambivalent project finally took off with its first conference last month.

R. Joseph Hoffman, the man behind this project, said that the conference is different from Jesus Seminar in the sense that, "The Jesus Seminar had difficulty separating itself from the faith commitments of its members."

Christian Post report

Religion Press report

As reported in Religion Press, some of the participating persona are:

JAMES TABOR, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; author of "The Jesus Dynasty: A New Historical Investigation of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity."

GERD LÜDEMANN, Jesus Project co-chair; professor of New Testament, Georg-August-University, Göttingen; author of "The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry" and "Primitive Christianity: A Survey of Recent Studies and Some New Proposals."

BRUCE CHILTON, Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College; director of the Institute for Advanced Theology; author of "Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography" and the first critical commentary on the Targum of Isaiah, "The Isaiah Targum: Introduction, Translation, Apparatus, and Notes."

DENNIS R. MACDONALD, professor at Claremont School of Theology and CGU School of Religion; director of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity at Claremont; author of "Does the New Testament Imitate Homer?"

DAVID TROBISCH, professor emeritus of New Testament at Bangor Theological Seminary; author of "The First Edition of the New Testament, Paul's Letter Collection."

JUSTIN MEGGITT, senior lecturer in the Study of Religion and the Origins of Christianity, Institute of Continuing Education; fellow and director of Studies in Theology and Religious Studies, Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge; member of the Reykjavik Academy; CSER fellow.

ROBERT EISENMAN, emeritus professor, California State University Long Beach; visiting senior member of Linacre College, Oxford University; former senior fellow at the Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies; author of "The New Testament Code," "The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered," and "The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians."

ROBERT M. PRICE, Jesus Project co-chair; author of "The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man"; Center for Inquiry senior research fellow.

HECTOR AVALOS, professor of religious studies, Iowa State University; author of "This Abled Body: Rethinking Disabilities in Biblical Studies," co-edited with Sarah Melcher and Jeremy Schipper; "The End of Biblical Studies."

The works of these scholars are recognizably from a certain point of view within the guild (eh... weird... suddenly I hear Kar Yong's yawning).

Daniel Wallace has posted a brief view on this.

As for me... well, I'll be excited only if there are news like Robert Price has abandoned his 'high-criticism' in this project, or James Tabor repent over his overly confident use of 2nd century source on the rape of Mary, or Robert Eisenman has finally come to his sense that the Qumran community is not related to the Jesus' movement. If not, I sincerely doubt anything new can be said. Or perhaps I should yawn together with Kar Yong until I got a copy of their articles which will be published next year by Prometheus Books. Then only should I decide continue yawning.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chapter 13: The Gift Of No Condemnation

Caution Point 1: Joseph Prince (JP) ignores the answer that Jesus gave to his disciples when they asked him whether the blind man in John 9.1-7 is blind because of his sins or his ancestors’ sins. JP wrote,

When Jesus and His disciples saw a man born blind, His disciples asked Him if the man was born blind because he had sinned or because his parents had sinned. Jesus answered, “Neither.” He went on to say, “I am the light of the world,” and proceeded to open the man’s eyes…
My friend, when there is a problem, deal with it. Don’t ask if it is your father’s fault, your grandfather’s fault… No, let’s learn to handle situations Jesus’ way. When faced with a man who was blind, Jesus declared that He was the light of the world and proceeded to heal the man.” (p.162)

I am not sure why JP ignores Jesus’ answer and depicts the story in John 9.1-7 in a distorted way. Instead of saying what the passage really says, JP seems to be trying to bring out his own motivational teaching on methods on problem solving.

Let’s look at John 9.1-7 (ESV):

“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.” (Emphasis added)

JP left out a whole chunk of Jesus’ answer. JP makes the scenario as if when Jesus faced with that question, he responded by simply saying, “Neither. I am the light of the world”, and then immediately “proceeded to heal the man” (p.162).

In John 9.3, JP is right to note that Jesus explicitly said that the blind man’s blindness is neither due to his sins or his ancestors’ sins. JP is ignoring all that Jesus said after that. It seems like JP has edited a part of the story by censoring the scene where Jesus was revealing the reason why the man was blind in verse 3.

Why JP censored that portion of the “Word of God”? Does that imply that JP has problem with what Jesus said?

Jesus said that the reason the man is blind is so that “the works of God might be displayed in him” (The Greek word ‘φανερωθη’- read ‘phanerothe’- which translated as ‘displayed’ in ESV carries a revealing tone of ‘making appearance’ or ‘manifesting’). JP has a problem with that?

Anyway, it strikes the reader that JP is ignoring what the “Word of God” is saying here. And it incites the suspicion that JP wanting to bring out his own teaching rather than really expounding what Jesus was saying in the Scripture.

Jesus seems to be like a doll for JP to twist and turn as he likes. Wherever there are places where Jesus said something that JP doesn’t agree with, JP just seals Jesus’ mouth with tape or censored them. Previously I’ve noticed that JP has done that to St. Paul in the chapter 1 of this book, now he is doing that to Jesus.

Hence it is not puzzling that some bookshops like the Popular Bookshop at Bras Basah Complex displayed ‘Destined to Reign’ among the self-helping, self-prospering, and self-motivating books instead of the ‘Christian Living’ or ‘Religion’ section. Could it be that the staffs at the bookshop know that this book is more about self-helping rather than about Jesus?

With content like this, it is hard to refuse such recognition. Or perhaps, was it JP’s instruction that his book be displayed at such section?

Caution Point 2: Could JP painting a wrong picture about non-believers’ perception of Christianity?

On page 164, JP assumes without any data that, “If you conduct a poll among non-believers to find out what they know about Christianity, many of them would probably be familiar only with the Ten commandments. They know only about the law that kills and not the Person who came to bring life!

Be cautious on this point because there is no data to support what JP wrote. One can deem it as JP’s attempt to polarize his own teaching which he believe to be emphasizing on ‘grace’ against the common belief out there which he thinks emphasizes the ‘law’. Of course, that polarization is a false picture that he has been attempting to paint on other Christians throughout his ministry and this book.

Caution Point 3: Could JP himself not under grace?

It is interesting that gives an example of what he will say to those who claimed to be under grace yet still live in sin. JP wrote,

I’ll say to him: “No, you are no under grace. The Bible says that sin shall not have dominion over you when you are not under law but under grace (referring to Rom 6.14). So if you are living in sin, you are definitely not under grace.” (Bold original, p.166-167)

On page 16, JP recognizes that, “God gave the law for one purpose, and that is by the law, the world would have the knowledge of sin (referring Rom 3.20), and recognize their need for a Saviours. Without the law, there would be no sin (referring Rom 4.15).”

And JP considers the ‘law’ is the Ten Commandments whenever the term appears in the Bible (see page 120 for example). Then that means the believers need to be conscious of the Ten Commandments in order to know whether is he/she is living under sin. If not, it does not make sense for JP to differentiate whether a person is living in sin or not. JP knows what kind of living is considered as sinful only if he knows the Ten Commandments.

Now, according to the Ten Commandments, there are two clauses specifically states that “You shall have no other gods before me (Exo 20.3)” and “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”.

JP is distorting the person of Jesus in the way he did as mentioned in Caution Point 1 of this review. This means he is telling the world his own version of Jesus. And the fact that JP’s Jesus is not the Jesus depicted in the Bible, then JP is having another god other than the One mentioned in the Bible. He is living in sin.

And since the author of John’s gospel did not intend his work to be read as how JP has read it, then JP is bearing a false witness against the author. Then JP is living in sin.

When these two instances coupled with what JP said about someone who lives in sin is not under grace, then I think we are legitimate to be cautious whether is JP himself living under grace. Is JP under the grace of his own ‘gospel of grace’? Unless he turn away from distorting Jesus to his congregation or the public, then he is still living in sin. And according to his own standard, he is not under grace?

Anyone who is living in sin is not under grace…” (Bold original, p.167)


Friday, December 12, 2008

Atheist's daily prayer

Our Lord God Dawkins who is in Oxford,
more honorary degree to your name;
Your writings come; Your thoughts be true on earth and in science lab;
give us this day our daily counter-delusion.
forgive our religious belief in u as we forgive those who believe in us;
lead us not into religious belief;
but deliver us from delusion.

(Against common perception, I didn't include the last verse “For yours is the scientific lab, borders’ bookshelves, and meme forever and ever. Amen”. Reason is that it is not found in the earliest manuscripts.)


Conversation that goes no where

Sze Zeng (SZ): The Bible is the inspired word of God.

Joshua Woo (JW): Who said so? Prove it.

SZ: The Bible (immediately SZ quotes from 2 Timothy 3.16-17 as proof).

JW: OK, so the Bible says the Bible is the inspired word of God. Then hear this: I'm the word of God.

SZ: No, u r not (wishing John Calvin is still alive and JW is in Geneva).

JW: Yes, I'm. I can prove it. (quotes the previous sentence: "I'm the word of God")

SZ: But your claim is not valid.

JW: Why the Bible is valid and I'm not?

SZ: Because the Bible is the word of God.

JW: Who said so?

SZ: The Bible, remember 2 Timothy 3.16-17?

JW: That's the same way that I use to argue that I'm the word of God.

SZ: The Bible is reliable and u r not.

JW: Why so?

SZ: The Bible records miraculous events like the resurrection of Jesus.

JW: Actually I'm a resurrected being. U see, I had an accident 8 years ago. I was dead, then 3 days later, I was raised.

SZ: I don't believe u.

JW: Then why do u believe the Bible when it says there were miracles back then?

SZ: Because the Bible says so.
Have you engaged in such conversation before? No? You must be missing something in your life, dude/babe.

You think you can do it?

From World Council of Churches website:

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has invited member churches and ecumenical partners to nominate candidates for the position of general secretary of the organization. The deadline for applications is 28 February 2009.

The general secretary – man or woman – is the organization's chief executive officer and serves as a spokesperson for the council. He or she is charged with the responsibility to interpret and promote the strategic vision of the WCC.

An active lay or ordained member of one of the member churches of the WCC, the general secretary is expected to be a gifted, skilled and experienced Christian theologian and leader with deep spiritual discernment grounded in scripture and prayer.

Find out more from its website. The post is the 'top executive position' of the council... so if you got it, you are the boss of the churches of the world (!).

You think you can do it? Ask your denomination to nominate you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Malaysia Home Minister interviewed by Malaysia Today

Malaysia Today (MT) interviews Malaysia's Home Minister (YB) Syed Hamid Albar. The minister's manner in handling national issue is an utter disappointment. See this extract where he justifies the non-existing Social Contract and corruption:

MT: If you say so YB. Okay, can we now talk about the Umno party elections and the numerous complaints about corruption in the party?

YB: What corruption are you talking about? There is no corruption in Umno.

MT: But the mainstream media has been reporting the many complaints of money politics.

YB: That is money politics, not corruption.

MT: Is there a difference?

YB: Of course there is. Corruption is when you pay to get something. Money politics is not corruption.

MT: What would you call money politics then?

YB: Money politics is……..well, money politics.

MT: And that is not corruption?

YB: Of course not.

On the invisible Social Contract:

YB: That was the agreement when we gained Merdeka in 1957. How can we go back on what was agreed?

MT: What agreement?

YB: The Social Contract that was agreed by the Malays, Chinese and Indians.

MT: Many say that the Social Contract does not exist. Have you ever seen it? Can Malaysians see a copy?

YB: It was not a written contract. It was a verbal contract.

What is this? Arguing constitution of a nation in 21st century without evidents?!! Then anyone can say anything about the constitution. That reveals a lot on the letigimacy of the ruling party's jurisprudence.

OK, for argument's sake, let's assume that the agreement of the said Social Contract did took place, but then that opens up a bigger problem: How then can the ruling party simply amend the invisible contract?

MT: But has this not since been amended many times in breach of the original Social Contract?

YB: No! In what way has it changed? Everything still remains the same.

MT: The government imposes new rules such as companies must be 100% Bumiputera before they can get import permits or APs and 30% of houses built must be sold to Bumiputeras according to the land area and so on. This was not part of the so-called Social Contract agreed by Umno, MCA and MIC before Merdeka. They are new rules made up as we went along.

YB: True. But the non-Malays accepted them.

MT: How do you know they accepted them?

YB: Because they continued to vote for the government. If they did not agree then they would not have voted for the government.

MT: But they did not vote for the government. 49% of the Malays and more than 80% of the Chinese and Indians did not vote for the government in the last general election. This means they do not agree with the government policies.

YB: But we still won more than 60% of the Parliament seats.

MT: That is only because of Gerrymandering. Malay majority seats like Putrajaya, where the voters are 98% Malay, have only 5,000 voters while seats that are 80% or more non-Malay have 120,000 voters or more. That is why the government still won and not because the majority voted for it.

The Home Minister said that the agreement has not be amended, but when the journalist listed those amendments out, the Home Minister ignores what he had so confidently affirmed seconds ago.

First there is no evident of this agreement. Then the ruling government make amendments on this non-existing agreement yet deny they did it. When it has been shown the amendments, the government justifies that it is OK for them to do so because of this and that. Their justification itself betray the dishonesty of the government.

Reading this reaffirms my conviction that the present ruling party UMNO/BN is hopeless.

What is 'tolerance'?

Pyromaniacs has the answer here:

Needless to say more :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cathedral of Messiah

This is Indonesia latest mega-church. The different that this church has from other mega-churches (for eg. New Creation Church & City Harvest Church in Singapore) is that there is no 'health & wealth gospel' preached on its pulpit.

Instead of developing the cathedral building into a commercial centre with shopping complex and world-class entertainment avenues like that of the One-North project of New Creation Church, the Cathedral of the Messiah has a university and museum. That shows a lot of the aspiration and direction of each building project, don't you think so?

This cathedral belongs to the Gereja Reformed Injili Indonesia, the church where Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong serves as its senior pastor. Rev. Dr. Tong is also the main architect of the cathedral.

Read more about this Reformed mega-church here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Euthanasia Forum's poster is here!

Now you can download the poster and stick it wherever you think appropriate. Thanks to 'Ar Bao' who spent his Friday evening doing it, and Sunday amending it.

What have Sepet and Gubra to do with Muallaf?

Within the stories of each of these 3 movies, a consistent theme is again and again being unveiled to the audient. Though Sepet and Gubra belong together as a single tale, (I can't find Mukhsin DVD!) the theme embedded within them are identifiable with that which is found in Muallaf.

Yasmin’s unusual perspective on culture is the main attraction in her works. Working on the post-colonized and multicultural background of Malaysia, she was bringing out the vital question facing humans of all ages, races, and religions onto the screen: How to live with the Other? An especially essential question that needed to be ask in a world stricken by terrorism which repeatedly caused by humans’ failure to look meaningfully beyond ourselves (think the Christians’ crusades, the Nazi’s onslaught, Malaysia’s May-13 riot, the 1994 Rwanda massacre, the Sept-11 attacks, and the recent Mumbai incident among many bloody others).

Our individual’s faint vision of the Other ultimately depreciates our recognition of the variegated facades of human’s social, political, and religious life. Hence it is not surprising if we find ourselves in the like of the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.27-37). Yet I think we are like neither the priest nor the Levite; we are more like the lawyer.

If you remember the context of the parable, it was the lawyer’s question that provoked Jesus to tell the parable. Our failure to look meaningfully beyond ourselves is best seen through the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbour?

Was the lawyer so blind that he cannot see his neighbour? I do not think so. In connecting Luke 10.27 to Luke 10.29, we find that the lawyer was in fact asking, “Who should I love?” It is not the case that he did not know who is his neighbour. Nor was he physically blind. His failure to see his neighbour is due to the wall erected by the social-political constructs of his time and place. The Samaritans who are mixed-blood are deemed by the Jews to be an inferior race.

Are we so blinded by our social-political wall that we fail to see who are our neighbours?

Here, Yasmin has repeatedly pointing out who are our neighbours through the 3 movies. Our neighbours are the diseased prostitute, the family’s maid, the determined yet unfortunate Jason, the sanguine yet fragile Orked, the rugged pub-waitress, the confused and desperate mother, the troubled sisters, and etc.

(The Muslims and Christians were neighbour during the Crusades; The Jews and Germans are neighbour during the second World War; The Malays and Chinese were neighbour during May-13; The Tutsi and Hutu were neighbour in Rwanda...)

In subtle ways Yasmin exposed the causes of this blindness. Whether religious (as depicted in Muallaf) or social (as in Sepet), a citizen in a multicultural context can be unknowingly victimized by unwarranted tensions that hinge upon ethnic and cultural differences. And often, discrimination on such differences is caused by the erection of socio-political walls among the communities.

In a post-colonial country such as Malaysia, these superfluous tensions manifest themselves through cultural secluding trends such as the stereotyping of certain races, or the unfair condemnation of certain behaviour based on religious-motivated instinct. The depiction of the former is found in some of the underlying racial presumptions such as the one in Sepet: “Chinese are cheats; Malays are lazy”. And the latter is illustrated through example like the character of a pious Muslim who works in a pub in Muallaf, or the Muslim teacher who touched a dog in Sepet.

Building humour on these racial peculiarities could be Yasmin’s attempt to break the racial, cultural, and religious wall among the different ethnic groups. This reminds me of Slavoj Zizek’s provocative, risky, and easily misunderstood suggestion that the way to get rid of racism is through racism itself. If two persons, each from different culture, can laugh away the stereotypes and caricatures made on each other respectively without feeling discriminated in any way, this signals the high level of trust and respect both have on one another.

But these attempts, as Zizek has warned, are risky. The Malaysian government is aware of this. Hence the government does not seem to appreciate Yasmin’s works as much as others. And this is exemplified in the heavy and often anti-climatic editing done on each of her movie by the national censorship board. Yet the fact is that Yasmin was portraying the sentiments of the grass-root citizens and attempt to open the eyes of different ethnic communities to see something more in each of us.

So, what have Sepet and Gubra to do with Muallaf?

Look beyond the walls; recognize and love the neighbour.”

I think this is the consistent theme appear in these 3 films, and hence also the point Yasmin wants to make to her audients. We have carelessly forgotten this facet of a multicultural living-hood as the result of generations of indoctrination done not by single entity or power but by the often unforeseen and overlooked socio-political circumstances. Within this condition, these 3 movies resemble the echo of the purpose of the parable of the Good Samaritan. A purpose that Yasmin aspires to help restoring back in us: The Samaritans are not the inferior Others; they are our neighbours. Love them as we love ourselves.

As a male-Malaysian-Chinese-Christian, I’m alert to the soft forms of proselyting element detectable within some of Yasmin’s works, yet I’m bound to ask critically, “Could a female-Malaysian-Malay-Muslim uncover this one message of the Christian’s Jesus to the multicultural public such as that in Malaysia and its region?

Why not.

Friday, December 05, 2008

How to talk to the 'New Atheist'?

First by understanding the struggles that they face, and their aspiration as atheists.

Richard Dawkins Foundation has graciously uploaded a 2-hour recording of table-talk among the "Four Horsemen", namely Dawkins himself, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris.

The talk is interesting. They discuss about Alister McGrath, Francis Collin etc. There is a part where Dawkins and Dennett grilled Hitchens over his wish that he still want people to go to church even if he is against their belief. Then there is also mentioned that Dawkins still say grace over meal sometimes.

I agree with one of the point they make regarding the theologians. They said that theologians always raised objection against them that their argument is only targeted towards the fundamentalist camp of religion, not the 'real' religion with all its deep theology.

These 4 horsemen are frustrated that these theologians know the fundamentalist-mentality among congregants yet they still continue encouraging the church goers by their teaching. For eg. theologians deem Genesis 1-3 as literature rather than historical account of what really happened, yet they still preach Gen 1-3 as if it is narrating historical event to the church.

Hour 1: Google Video | Quicktime (78.7 MB) | Torrent | Audio Only (mp3, 26.6 MB)
Hour 2: Google Video | Quicktime (73.6 MB) | Torrent | Audio Only (mp3, 27.1 MB)

Read the transcript here


It's one thing to read them and engage with their works, it is altogether a different experience to hear them talk about their struggles and challenges they met and still meeting, the aspiration and vision they have for the society.

Mid-noon humor

I was at a foodcourt buying lunch and the queue was very long. So I decided to send a pre-Christmas sms to friends. This is what I wrote:
"Jesus said to Cho Thomas on 1 X'mas: U r the best celebration for my birthday and new year's day, and i luv u, sweetheart, so be happy. (Heaven Is So Real, p.243). Hopefully, that 'Jesus' who appeared and wished Cho Thomas, appear and wish you merry x'mas the same way this year."
And I got funny replies.

Steven Sim replied: "Choi...don't want to see ghost or have psychiatric illness on such joyous occasion. And besides, Cho's Jesus live in Korea, i'll be in Singapore."

Huai Tze replied: "Wow, u read that kind of thing? :P"

..hahaha.. It's a good way to lighten the heavy mid-noon.. hahaha

Ohh... a side note: the budding NT scholar is going back to his hometown today after being exiled to the Lion's land for 4 weeks. Safe trip!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

'The Promise' Musical by Presbyterian Singapore

Last week the Presbyterian Church of Singapore held a musical depicts the life of Jesus at the National Cultural Centre (NCC), Singapore. The preparation for the musical is long and involved many volunteers. You can read about it at Christian Post. The organizer and volunteers must be applauded for their efforts and time.

As I was standing by at the NCC's lobby, I went in for a few minutes just to take a peep. My feedback to the Synod is that I think the producer of the musical should not overlook the accuracy of the historical and theological data.

First the last supper scene. The upper room setting followed the infamous anachronistic depiction done by the Da Vinci where Jesus was seated in the middle of a long table (the picture above). But historians have shown that the table was in a 'U' shape, and the main host (Jesus) seats at side of the table rather than the middle.

Second, in the resurrection scene, there were 3 angels with feathered wings. Again, this is artistic expression derived uncritically from the Western Renaissance's painting, the period which Da Vinci lived. I might have overlook some parts of the Bible but I do not see the Bible states that angels have feathered wings. And I found out that those wings cost USD$600 per pair. Hence I think paying USD$1800 to portrays wrong theology is unnecessary.

These two inaccuracies might give the public, especially the non-believers, some false perception on what Christianity is really about.

I bet Presbyterians can do a much better (historical & theological) work than this. Not that we don't have Presbyterian historians and theologians right?

With hope and blessings, I'd send my feedback to the Synod.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

James Hamilton on Beale's recent lecture

Hamilton posted a positive summary of Beale's recent lecture on inerrancy which form the major part of his argument in a new book that has a peculiar description. According to Hamilton, Beale contends that the idea of 'inerrancy' is not something that theologians make up. It is "an exegetical observation of a theological deduction that at least one biblical author (author of the book of Revelation) has already made within the text of the Bible itself."

Then Hamilton further describes Beale's attempt to further the inerrancy idea to be found in other books within the Bible, such as Isaiah and Psalms.

I think it really depends on how Beale qualifies the term 'inerrancy'. Without a well-defined working definition, it's difficult to say anything on this issue. If inerrancy simply means that the Bible is trustworthy and reliable (contra trustworthy and reliable in ALL historical and scientific data), then I don't see why Beale's book can be of any contribution to the topic.

What is Muallaf about?

Yasmin Ahmad’s recent movie titled ‘Muallaf’ (Arabic: The Convert). I once heard Yasmin said that there is no scene of conversion in this movie. The reason she said that is because she suspects that the Malaysian censorship board is worried that there are conversion scenes which show Muslims coming out from Islam in the movie. And truly, there isn’t such scene in the movie. So the question is why then this title? Perhaps the characters in the movie give some clues:

A kind but unconvincing Roman Catholic Priest who thinks that everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike, are looking for God in their own way.

A shallow, apathetic, and irreligious college administrator who does not know about theology, philosophy of religion, sociology of religion, and comparative religious studies.

A kiasu, self-seeking, and pathetic Taoist Chinese teacher who talks about Tao Te Ching but enjoy gossips and has the habit of not paying back her debts.

An insecure, desperate, and immature Christian widow who condemned and ever bugging her own son over trivialities.

Her unforgiving and cynical Christian son whose life has changed after being intrigued by the lives of the two Muslim sisters. He starts reading the Qur’an earnestly. He read it not only to himself but starting reading it to a coma patient as well. He starts learning about the Muslim culture and the Islamic faith. He is even open to learn Arabic to further his understanding of the Islam. He became more forgiving, sympathetic, and found some sense of meaning in life.

Then there are the intelligent, loving, gracious, and angelic Muslim sisters who ran away from their brutal father. They were taught about comparative religious studies and Qur’anic interpretations by their late mother who was a lecturer on religion. Hence they are well-versed with the Qur’an and Scriptures of other religions. They even read St. Augustine’s confession. The sisters are like salt and light to everyone around them. Their exemplary and inspiring Muslim lives influenced and transformed the lives of the insecure Christian widow, her cynical son, and even their own arrogant and cruel father.

The son and the two sisters are the protagonists in the movie.

Perhaps now it is clearer why the movie titled ‘Muallaf’?

Another note is that I think the portrayed intimacy between the two sisters is superficial. Overall, the best character probably is the pub-waitress played by Yeo Yann Yann that appears only a short while.

So far, among her movies such as Sepet, Gubra etc, Muallaf marks Yasmin's greatest work in promoting Islam to the modern contemporary audience.

Alastair V. Campbell On 'Organ Trade'

Yesterday there was a dialog among policy makers in Singapore over the possible amendment in HOTA (Human Organ Transplant Act), reported 93.8 Live FM. Singapore's Health Minister was reported saying that the compensation (read: trading price) for organ donors has to be a 5 digit amount. The report can be found in today's The Straits Times.

A few months ago Prof. Campbell wrote a short article on the July 10 Straits Times newspaper on organ trading. He states clearly in the article that 'ethical and regulated market' for organ has more negative effects than positive ones.

Here are some other good points he gave:

  • Organ trading is wrong in principle because it presupposes that the body is a piece of property akin to our material possessions (house, car, etc). While a body part like a kidney is alienable, meaning it can be transferred to another, it is certainly not fungible (easily replaced by something similar) or commensurable (its value quantified and compared to another object).

    The gift of an organ is different from selling it, since the organ is gifted out of the wish to benefit another person, not for financial gain.

  • Organ trading has negative social effects in that it undercuts the gift relationship between donors and recipients. Gift ethic or altruism - with its effect on social solidarity - is the rationale for many current procurement systems for cadaveric organs.

    If a live organ market is instituted, many people may opt out from altruistic giving - thus reducing the supply of transplantable organs. A recent study in Austria has shown that financial incentives would have this effect. Demand may also be made for certain forms of payment for cadaveric organs.

  • There is a strong reason for a universal ban on organ trading by all countries (except Iran). Once this barrier is breached, it is hard to justify why the law should not allow the live body trade to be extended to other "expendable" parts like hands and single eye corneas.

Prof. Campbell will be taking part in a forum on euthanasia next month.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The most cited academic book of the 20th century goes to...

Just now when I was on the road, I listened to Alan Padgett's talk on faith and academic commitments. He mentioned that an authority told him that the most cited academic book of the 20th century is Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Those who are familiar with the work do realize that it is critical of 'modernism' or 'foundationalism'. Kuhn argues in the book for a 'paradigm shift' to best describes the phenomenon of scientific revolution.

I recall about a year or so ago, Singapore Bible College has this book as one of their textbook. Not that I attended its classes but because I saw this book on display on the 'textbook' shelves in its bookshop.

Indian Muslim leaders are doing right!

The bodies of the killed terrorists at Mumbai are not welcomed in Muslim's cemetery. I think these religious leaders are doing right. I believe that the way to counter religion-related terrorism is not by bombing their headquarters but by, ironically, religious catechism.

The Indian Muslims' rejection of these bodies is a public condemnation on these terror. The condemnation amounts to something like, "You think you are going to heaven by blowing people up? You are God-damned wrong!" Hence on another level, this is a public catechism.

"We do not want the bodies of people who have committed an act of terrorism to be buried in our cemeteries... These terrorists are a black spot on our religion, we will very sternly protest the burial of these terrorists in our cemetery," as reported in BBC News.

These leaders are to be applauded.

And to the governments around the world that think that terrorism can be countered by armies and weapons: think again.

Ng Kam Weng responded to Mahathir's nonsense

Mahathir, the ex-premier of Malaysia, contends that non-Muslims cannot comment on the Islamic authority's recent official condemnation on the practice of yoga. Malaysian theologian Ng Kam Weng posted 2 responses on his blog. Some extracts:

"I agree with Dr. Mahathir on one point, that is, one should not feel insulted just because leaders from another religion take positions that are contrary to one’s religious beliefs. There is no need to take the fatwa that prohibits Muslims from practicing yoga as an insult to Hinduism. Let’s accept the fact that Muslims are entitled to their own viewpoint.

However, by the same token, Muslims should extend the same entitlement to non-Muslims. If Muslims can take the liberty to publicly reject the tenets of faith of another religion, then they should also grant the same liberty to non-Muslims to reject Islamic faith in public. On the same moral terms, they should not feel insulted if non-Muslims put up advertisements voicing their opinion that Quran cannot be the revealed word of God or that Muhammad cannot be God’s prophet."

Read them all here:

Fatwa Council Bans Yoga: Non-Muslims Told Not to Comment

Non-Muslims Have a Right to Comment on Fatwas

Monday, December 01, 2008

Curious about Peter Enns as 'postmodernist'

Amazon states:
"Here G. K. Beale attempts vigorously and even-handedly to examine the writings of one leading postmodernist, Peter Enns, whose writings challenge biblical authority." (Emphasis added)

Er.... Peter Enns, known for his conservative belief and who once worked at the Westminster Theological Seminary, is now a postmodernist, not to mention as the leading one?

Curious where or how did G.K Beale get this idea. Curious when did Peter Enns challenges the authority of the Bible. And curious how and why Crossway Publication allows such description...

Not sure if this is Crossway's marketing rhetoric or Beale's own non-marketing (read: right-wing conservative) one.

Religion & Culture

Malaysia's National Fatwa Council recently declared that the practice of yoga is condemned in Islam. Their reason is that yoga consists elements of Hinduism inherent in it. This is a failure to distinguish yoga as a beneficial physical exercise from the spiritual practice cultivated differently and much more intensely by yogi.

If the Fatwa Council is consistent, then it should condemn the practice of exchanging wedding rings in marriages as well.

The wearing of rings in marriages originated in ancient civilization and religion. It was believed that the fourth finger on which wedding rings are wore has a vein that connect directly to the heart. Hence this practice was later being adopted by Christianity as testified by St. Isidore of Seville in the 7th century AD,

"It was given by the spouser to the espoused whether for a sign of mutual fidelity or still more to join their hearts to this pledge and that therefore the ring is placed on the fourth finger because a certain vein is said to flow from thence to the heart."
(As qouted in 'The Nature of Diamonds' by George E. Harlow, p.164)

However the primary reason for this post is not to highlight the disturbing fatwa released by the National Fatwa Council. I took the event as a platform for a wider conversation on the vague and often-confusing relation between religion and culture.

Before we ask whether is religion supposed to rule over culture or vice versa, I think there is a more fundamental question to ask: Is such relation legitimate in the first place?

But wait a minute, what does such conversation has to do with everyday Christian living?

This is what it does, "To prevent Christians from rushing into going around the neighborhood and condemning other cultural practices." And the practical effect is two-fold: To clear Christians from being viewed as unnecessarily hostile and anxious, and to save Christians from being hostile and anxious.

So back to the question about the legitimacy in conceiving such relation between religion and culture.

Very very very first of all, the Bible is not a book or an encyclopedia about cultures and religions, thus there are limited resources to learn from it about these two great themes. All the Bible provides is the impetus and framework for us to work on.

Second, we Christians often tend to put religion over and above culture. And hence we have our own 'fatwa' launched from our pulpits.

One example is the anti-movie sentiment among Christians in the 1960s-70s. There was a perception that the culture of watching movies are bad for Christian living. Thus many preachers were calling fire from heaven on this culture.

To draw a more contemporary example, there are church leaders who are suspicious of blogging-culture. They loath at blogs just like the Malaysian government used to. But what happened to the Malaysian government will happen to them soon: they will be proven wrong.

So to pitch religion above culture is not an option. Neither is it legitimate because the categorization between 'religion' and 'culture' is a pseudo-category. 'Religion' is very often cultural, and 'Culture' is always religious.

Remember that 'Ang Pow' (or Hong Pao) giving during Chinese New Year has its origin in the belief that 'red' color frighten the ancient monster known as 'nien' (Mandarin for 'year')? Hence the saying 'gou nien' (New Year) means by-passing the monster.

Euthanasia: A Christian Perspective

Contemporary Issue Ministry of Graduates' Christian Fellowship (GCF) presents:

Euthanasia: A Christian Perspective

19th January 2009

Venue: 420 North Bridge Road, #05-04 North Bridge Centre

"What is 'Euthanasia'? A Public Issue"
Speaker: Dr. Alastair Campbell
Director of Centre of Biomedical Ethics at National University Singapore.

"Euthanasia for Christians: Why, How and Because"
Speaker: Dr. Alex Tang
A paediatrician at the Johor Specialist Hospital and the Director of the Spiritual Formation Institute, Malaysia.

"Hospice & Palliative Care: Importance, Challenges, and Christians' Vocation"
Speaker: Rev. Dr. Tan Soo Inn
Chairman & Training Consultant of Graceworks and the Chaplain of Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship (CMDF).

About the Speakers:
Prof. Alastair V. Campbell is the Director of Centre for Biomedical Ethics in National University of Singapore. He is a former President of the International Association of Bioethics. In 1999, Professor Campbell was given the prestigious Henry Knowles Beecher award, which recognizes his lifetime of contribution to ethics and the life sciences. Professor Campbell is a member of the Bioethics Advisory Committee to the Singapore Government, and a Board Member of the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore.

Dr. Alex Tang is a pediatrician at Johor Specialist Hospital, an adjunct lecturer in the Monash Medical School, and the Director of Spiritual Formation Institute. He has his medical trainings from Malaysia (MD), Glasgow (DCH), Edinburgh (FRCP) and USA (FCCP). After obtaining a Master Degree from Malaysia Bible Seminary, he is now pursuing a Ph.D at Asia Graduate School of Theology. Besides numerous written articles on ethical issues from a Christian point of view, Dr. Alex has a few books under his authorship; 'A Good Day to Die' is one that specifically addresses 'euthanasia'. He is also an active blogger.

Rev. Dr. Tan Soo-Inn is the Chairman and Training Consultant of Graceworks, Grace@work ministries, and the chaplain of Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship (CMDF). He left the dentistry to pursue a pastoral vocation. Soo-Inn obtained his Master of Theology degree from Regent College, Vancouver. Later on, he obtained his Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary, California. Currently an Honorary Associate Pastor with Evangel Christian Church, his primary passions include connecting the Word of God to the struggles of daily life, and the promotion of the discipline of spiritual friendship. Soo-Inn's knowledge of hospice and palliative care are not learned from books... He loss his first wife to cancer.

The forum is free but registration is required as seats are limited.

Please register by sending an email to or call 63386283