Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Labor Day!

Since 6 years ago, I have been participating in Labor Day celebration. Tomorrow is the next one. But haven't think of what to do yet. Movie? Clubbing later? Dinner?

Feel like hanging out with mates, but I think none of them are in town....

Guess, I will come out with something tomorrow morning. Holy Spirit works better in the morning sometimes.


HAPPY LABOR DAY!!!
.....AN EXTRA SABBATH IN A YEAR.....

Nonsense Things Done in Christ's Name

Kar Yong blogged on some of the alleged revivals that are happening in Penang, my hometown. Go to Kar Yong's blog to see the youtube clips. Nonsense things done by local 'preachers' in the name of Christ.

Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid.......

Sex!!!

Michelle raised some irresistible questions about sex on her blog. By 'irresistible', I'm naturally crave to respond. But before that, look at her questions:

What makes 2 people wanna fornicate in the first place? Is it just addiction where you can have sex with anyone? Is it a physical connection on a different level? Is it just a moment of folly? Or is just 2 people at the right place at the right time?...


Irresistible, right?? They are especially irresistible to a theologian-wanna-be, who at this moment a young adult male whose hormones are boiling. So here is my long testosterone response:

It got people like evolutionists puzzle as to the origin of sex. Humans working on 'natural selection' and 'random variation' to form fitter survival physiology. But if parthenogenesis is more efficient to survival, why the process of evolution ends up with humans having to have sex for reproduction?

There are creatures that do not need sex to reproduce, eg. bdelloid rotifer. In fact such asexual creature survives and adapts to the environment better (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7039478.stm).

So, that poses us a question: If sexual activity is not necessary for survival on one hand and not the best way for adaptation on the other, why then humans ended up as sexual creatures? Not only that, why sexual activities for humans are so hedonistically prevalent, as contra with other creatures like tiger and panda?

The best answer that I have is that 'sex' is meant more than reproduction and pleasure for humans...ok ok...let me explain...don't fall asleep yet...

'Sex' necessitates relationship and communal. That means in order for sex to take place, there must be more than 1 party being involved. There must be a relationship. And if sex is not a necessity for survival (as exemplified by bdelloid rotifier), that means such pleasurable relationship is meant more than for the sake of reproduction. And if sex is not helpful for survival, that means such pleasant relationship has more to it than mere pleasure. And such pleasurable and pleasant relationship make us different from other creatures.

Theologians have been saying for centuries that 'sex' is for consummation. Read 'consummation', NOT 'consumption'. The latter is what prostitution is about. The former is a process of fulfilling an ideal. In this case, the ideal of sex. Since neither reproduction and pleasure are the ultimate ideal of sex, then there must be something else to it. And theologians have located the ideal of sex within the sacred mutual relationship between humans that other animals do not share. This sacred mutual relationship is known as 'marriage' to the common.

Hence, the reality of 'sex' points us to the reality of this sacred relationship. That is the ideal. Pleasure and reproduction are secondary. And theologians have proposed further that such consummation actually reflects the fundamental uniqueness of being human. It's the reflection of the communal character of the divine.

OK... you can sleep now :-)


.... now let's sing The Black Eye Peas's Grammy winner song 'My Hump', which goes like this:

They say I'm really sexy,
The boys they wanna sex me.
They always standing next to me,
Always dancing next to me,
Tryin' a feel my hump, hump.
Lookin' at my lump, lump.
You can look but you can't touch it,
If you touch it I'ma start some drama,
You don't want no drama,
No, no drama, no, no, no, no drama
So don't pull on my hand boy,
You ain't my man, boy,
I'm just tryn'a dance boy,
And move my hump.

My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump,
My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump.
My lovely lady lumps (lumps)
My lovely lady lumps (lumps)
My lovely lady lumps (lumps)
In the back and in the front (lumps)
My lovin' got you...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?, P.4

4) The Exodus in the OT

There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. (Exodus 12.37)

According to the OT, the God of the Israelites decided to rescue his people from the torturous bondage under the Egyptian Pharaoh. The Israelite’s God commissioned Moses for this rescue mission. Few stories in the Bible are as widely known as this massive migration of the ancient Israelites from Egypt to Canaan. Besides the miraculous plagues and the parting of the sea of Reed, one other interesting data noticed by archaeologists is the population involved in the Exodus.

The book of Exodus records that there were six hundred thousand men took part in the voyage. That makes up a total number of about two to four million individuals travelling out of Egypt into Canaan in the 13th century BC.

That OT data alone is problematic. On one hand, with our current comprehensive knowledge of the middle-eastern geography, the ancient landscape does not allow for such massive amount of migrants to travel all at once. As Niels Peter Lemche (right picture) pointed out in his book ‘The Israelites in History and Tradition’:
“Six hundred thousand males with families – that would say above three million people – would, as it was remarked a long time ago, have filled up the whole peninsula, and even if the Israelites marched in broad columns would have meant that the advance guard was well into Syria before the rear guard had left Egypt.”(p.151)
On the other hand, as pointed out by a sociologist of the antiquity Norman K. Gottwald, the recorded population of the ancient Israelites in the book of Exodus is ridiculously too large:
“The total of more than 600,000 arms-bearing males is ridiculously excessive, since that would yield a total population of at least 2, 500, 000, a figure far larger than the highest estimates for the most populous periods of ancient Israel under the late monarchy.” (1979:51).
In view of such doubtful figures of the Exodus, some scholars try to salvage the Bible’s historical reliability by suggesting that the population of the ‘Exodus’ was much fewer than a single journey involved a few million people. Others, like John Bright, suggest that there was no one enormous resettlement but, rather, many tiny ‘exoduses’ occurring through out a span of time. But all these attempts to change the figure of the Exodus in order to salvage the Biblical data does not promote the Bible’s historical reliability. In fact such attempt implies that the OT is inaccurate. Such attempt to salvage the historical reliability of this data undercuts itself.

The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?, P.3

3) Date of the Exodus and the Conquest (approx. 40 years from the Exodus)

In order to discuss the Conquest, one must first determine the date of the Exodus. According to William Dever, the date for the Exodus can be obtained from the chronology found in the OT. But such chronology does not correspond to available archaeological findings. Dever wrote:
“Work began on the Jerusalem Temple in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, and that was 480 years after the Exodus (1 Kings 6.1). Since we know that Solomon died in 930 BCE (14.25-28; “Shishak” = Sheshonq I, now ca. 945-924 BCE), and he reigned 40 years (11.42), he would have ascended the throne in 970 BCE. Thus we add 480 to 966 to get 1446 BCE – the exact date of the Exodus. But such a high date does not accord at all with the archaeological record in Palestine…All authorities today agree that…[the Exodus occurred]…at the end of the Bronze Age, ca. 1250-1150 BCE.”
(Dever, 2003:8; see similar accounts in Provan et al, 2003:131; Finkelstein & Silberman, 2001:56-57; Bright, 2000:133)
Although a 13th century BC date is consented by majority of archaeologists and biblical scholars, there are still others (archaeologists in general and Christian apologists in particular) who argue for a 15th century BC date. One such scholar is the famous Christian apologist (right picture) Norman Geisler (see his encyclopaedia’s articles ‘Pharaoh of the Exodus’ and ‘Archaeology, Old Testament’). But such conclusion is untenable. I will extend discussion on this issue under the topic ‘Archaeology and the Conquest data’ below.

Another scholar who contends for an early period for the Exodus is Bryant Wood (right picture), the director of the Associates for Biblical Research whose expertise is in ancient ceramic. Based on carbon-14 dating techniques, Wood dates a piece of charcoal recovered from the excavated site of Jericho to about 1440 BC, a result contradicts the findings of the late Kathleen Kenyon.

With this early date, Wood managed to pin the burning of Jericho to the 15th century, the early date of the Israelites’ massive military invasion in the land as recorded in the OT. However, as with all archaeological findings, Wood’s hypothesis is not exempted from its provisional state.

In 1995, Hendrik J. Bruins and Johannes van der Plicht conducted a more effective and extensive carbon-14 dating process. This time, 18 specimens from the same excavated site were examined. Significantly among them, there were 6 charred cereal grains being examined. These grains are more reliable to provide accurate date than charcoal, the specimen that Bryant Wood employed 5 years earlier. At the end of the project, Bruins and van der Plicht conclude that the destruction of Jericho is precisely at the date Kathleen Kenyon (right picture) estimated, that is in the 16th century BC. (See their 1995 essay. Further discussion of Bryant Wood’s carbon-14 dating and his discovery of ‘Jericho’s wall’ can be found at http://www.netours.com/jrs/2003/jericho-debate.htm).


Therefore there is no evidence to suggest for an early date of the Exodus. On the other hand, we possess artifactual data such as the socio-economical shifts in the 13th and subsequent centuries in Canaan, which raises the probability for the Exodus to happened at that time.

The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?, P.2

2) Chronology

A clear timeline is important in this study. Therefore I have listed the relevant time period below for reference. Throughout this work, BC (period Before Christ) is used interchangeably with BCE (period Before Common Era). This is because the sources that I consult differ in their preference for these two terms. So, my usage of these terms should not be deemed insensitive to any particular group since it is more for practical rather than ideological reason.


2.a) Timeline

Early Bronze Age (3200 – 2000 BCE)
Middle Bronze Age (2000 – 1550 BCE)
Late Bronze Age (1550 – 1200 BCE)
Iron Age (1200 – 300 BCE)

16th century BCE (1501 – 1600 BCE)
15th century BCE (1401 – 1500 BCE)
14th century BCE (1301 – 1400 BCE)
13th century BCE (1201 – 1300 BCE)
12th century BCE (1101 – 1200 BCE)
11th century BCE (1001 – 1100 BCE)

It is important to know that our earliest epigraphical evidence mentioning “Israel” is found on the ‘Merneptah stele’. It is currently being displayed at Cairo Museum. The stele is dated to 13th century BCE (see Miller & Hayes, 2006:39-41; Lemche, 1998:35-38).

(Merneptah Stele, 13th century B.C.)

The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?, P.1

(Disclaimer: If your faith in Christ can be stumbled when you found out that God did not create the world in 6 24-hour days, then you may skip this series of posts titled 'The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?'. Perhaps R.C Sproul's books better suit you.)

1) Introduction

The Bible is a historical book in the sense that it is a human artifact and, at that, a product within history. This is not the same as saying that all that is recorded in the Bible is historical, which is readily assumed by Christians in general, by fundamentalists in particular. First of all, there is no doubt that the Bible conveys a significant amount of historical events but to say that that is the only reality of the sacred literature is another matter altogether.


Since the Enlightenment, we have been endowed with advanced technology and rigorous methodology to study the past like no other preceding generations. These phenomena have contributed to the advancement of ‘archaeology’. With leveled efficiency to study the past, we are now able to look for corroborative data to substantiate the recorded data in the Bible or to contradict them.

In this present study, I am drawing results from contemporary archeology to be examined along one particular data testified in the Bible, namely the conquest of Canaan. The event when, according to the Old Testament (OT), the ancient Israelites were led by Joshua to conquer the land of Canaan.

Although I am not an archaeologist, I attempt an inter-disciplinary survey through the works of professional archaeologists, biblical scholars, and theologians to seek for collaborate understanding on the historicity of the event.

I will provide a summary of current archaeological evidences in relation to the conquest data found in the OT. For this reason, there is no in-depth discussion of archaeological surveys or introduction to each subjects discussed in this study. However, I have prepared a brief bibliography at the end of this study for those who desire to inquire further into the subject.

Besides, I would like to make it clear that I am aware of the limit of archaeology, its ability to provide historical information, and its relation to the Bible. If in any case, at the end of this study, it is being shown that the archaeological evidences do not support the biblical data; that does not infallibly conclude that the ‘Conquest’ did not happen. It only means that our current state of evidences make it less probable for the ‘Conquest’ to be historical.

On the other hand, if archaeological data are found corroborating with the OT; that does not immediately and necessarily bring about the conclusion that the ‘Conquest’ took place precisely as narrated in the Bible. It is important for one not to confuse the archaeological facts and how these facts can be construed. And I am aware of these slippery connections.

Friend's Conversion

Last Saturday, Stephen, one of the owner of a local Christian bookshop messaged me:

"I accept the bible is not inerrant..."

Of course, he didn't convert out of vacuum. I was talking to him two days before about why am I not an inerrantist. And after that, I forwarded a short article by Roger Olson to him. What happened thereafter is, of course (!), the working of the Holy Spirit in and on him.

It was not I who convert him since no one able to convert anyone without God's prompting. It is the Holy Spirit. Alleluia~ All glory to God~

Some Scribbles

I will be posting some of my studies here. I have two topics in mind at the moment, (1) The Historicity of the Conquest of Canaan, and (2) The Fallacy of Inerrancy.

Will put up a column at the side bar. Hope they are help people fall asleep :-)

Fresh Green~

May is coming.... So I changed the template. Now, it's fresh~

The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?

(Disclaimer: If your faith in Christ can be stumbled when you found out that God did not create the world in 6 24-hour days, then you may skip this series of posts titled 'The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?'. Perhaps R.C Sproul's books better suit you.)

Part 1. Introduction

Part 2. Chronology and Timeline

Part 3. Date of the Exodus and the Conquest

Part 4. The Exodus in the Old Testament

Part 5. The Exodus and Archeology


Part 6. The Conquest in OT

Part 7. The Conquest and Archeology

Part 7.a, 7.b, and 7.c. Jericho, Ai, and Other Interpretations on the Data of Jericho and Ai

Part 7.d. Other Archaeological Remarks on the Conquest


Part 8. Less 'Dramatic' Evidences for the Conquest

Part 9. Less 'Dramatic' Evidences and Further Interpretations

Part 10. Conclusion: The Conquest and the Reliability of the Bible for Our Life

Bibliography

Iron Eschaton 4

Iron Man in the middle of the town! This movie better not be a flop or turkey! 2 days to go!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Epiphany through Newsletter!

I've attended Andrew Wall's public lecture at Trinity Theological College. And this is report in their latest newsletter, page 4.... mmmmm.... is God hinting something?


Met L.K.Y

Nope, I didn't meet Mr. Singapore Lee Kuan Yew. It's Lim Kar Yong, the (*ahem ahem*) Assistant Director of Post-Graduate Studies, cum Lecturer of the New Testament in Malaysia Theological Seminary (Seminari Theoloji Malaysia). Besides maintaining his blog, he also has a website dedicated to the studies of the New Testament. But somehow, the website was last updated in July 2005. Probably he is concentrating on his blog, where he posts reviews, lectures, news, and all other things about him.

He is one funny, outgoing, devoted, warm yet strict and critical NT lecturer. Expert in Pauline studies, particularly on St Paul's 2nd epistle to the Corinthians (exemplifies in his upcoming book).

We hang out at Parkway Parade while he was here for a conference. He surprised me with one of the question he raised on St Paul in relation to his sufferings. KY provides a horizon of understanding of St Paul's apostolic vocation that anticipates suffering. That invoke 2 further questions:

1) What is 'suffering' to St Paul?

2) Is 'suffering' an intrinsic part or a consequence to his calling? (he asked John Piper this. Piper said that it is both)

Kar Yong helpfully distinguish 'suffering' from 'inconvenience' on the first question.

On the second question, he seems to take St Paul to understand his suffering as the former. That means when St Paul accept his apostolic calling, he already anticipates suffering as an intrinsic necessity (Acts 9.16).

And these both answers require Christians to rethink about their life and vocation in relation to the anticipation of suffering. When we receives our calling to new life in Christ, are we also ready to take up and go through the intrinsic necessity?

Another shocking thing that Kar Yong told me is about rising Muslim scholars in Malaysia. But I'm not going to blog about that here.

Iron Eschaton 3


Another reason to watch Iron Man: I took a picture with the poster!

OK, another other reason to watch: Last night, I discovered Soo Inn, Daniel, and Huai Tze are anticipating the Iron Eschaton too!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Answered Prayer is Scary

A friend emailed this to me:
A man was sick and tired of going to work every day while his wife stayed home.
He wanted her to see what he went through so he prayed:
'Dear Lord: I go to work every day and put in 8 hours while my wife merely stays at home. I want her to know what I go through, so please allow her body to switch with mine for a day. Amen.'

God, in his infinite wisdom, granted the man's wish.

The next morning, sure enough, the man awoke as a woman. He arose, cooked breakfast for his mate, awakened the kids, set out their school clothes, fed them breakfast, packed their lunches, drove them to school, came home and picked up the dry cleaning, took it to the cleaners and stopped at the bank to make a deposit, went grocery shopping, then drove home to put away the groceries, paid the bills and balanced the check book. He cleaned the cat's litter box and bathed the dog.

Then it was already 1P.M. And he hurried to make the beds, do the laundry, vacuum, dust, and sweep and mop the kitchen floor. Ran to the school to pick up the kids and got into an argument with them on the way home. Set out milk and cookies and got the kids organized to do their homework, then set up the ironing board and watched TV while he did the ironing.

At 4:30 he began peeling potatoes and washing vegetables for salad, breaded the pork chops and snapped fresh beans for supper. After supper, he cleaned the kitchen, ran the dishwasher, folded laundry, bathed the kids, and put them to bed.

At 9 P.M. he was exhausted and, though his daily chores weren't finished, he went to bed where he was expected to make love, which he managed to get through without complaint.

The next morning, he awoke and immediately knelt by the bed and said:
-'Lord, I don't know what I was thinking. I was so wrong to envy my
wife's being able to stay home all day. Please, oh! oh! please, let us
trade back.'

The Lord, in his infinite wisdom, replied:
'My son, I feel you have learned your lesson and I will be happy to change things back to the way they were. You'll just have to wait nine months though. You got pregnant last night.'
If after reading this, you still think that this story is implying 'answered prayer is scary', then you might most probably be having the same problem as the man had in the story. His problem is bad hermeneutics. He failed to understand his wife! Hence, the intended title above is 'Bad Hermeneutics is Scary'.

Double Life v.s Two Roles

Yesterday Michelle said that I live a 'double life'. Think she get that idea because I appear to be an introvert, (cold) cool, good, decent, and gullible person on certain occasions, and I am an extrovert, outgoing, immodest, and complicated person on other occasions.

That got me thinking.

I'm not living a 'double life' but playing different role at different occasions. And I came to distinguish the difference between 'double life' and 'two roles' (could be more than two, but use two because to go along with the 'double'; thus better terms are 'multiple life' and 'multiple roles').

Double life is when a person makes himself accountable to more than one allegiance at different occasion. Hence at different occasion, the person will adopt the appropriate persona by compromising his allegiance. This trait is an self-centered and self-contained.

For eg. Think the character Cypher in 'The Matrix'. The one who sold Morpheus to Agent Smith so that he could be channeled back into the Matrix.







Two roles is when a person makes himself accountable to only one allegiance even at different occasion. Hence at different occasion, the person will adopt the appropriate persona without compromising his allegiance. This trait is always other-centered and not self-contained.

For eg. Think Oskar Schindler (a real person!) in 'The Schindler's List'. He played two roles- one in front of the Nazi government, another in front of his workers- during the 2nd World War. Both roles are played in order to save some Jews from being executed by the Nazi.










Hope that's helpful. And I do not at any moment implying that I'm like Schindler! It's just an example! As sinful as I'm being divinely illuminated, I think I haven't reach both extremes between 'double life' and 'two roles'. Hopefully and prayerfully I'm leaning towards the 'two roles' pendulum.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why Inerrancy Doesn't Matter?

An article by Roger Olson is professor of theology at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

Why Inerrancy Doesn't Matter
The trouble is that... “inerrancy” has become a shibboleth—a gate-keeping word used to exclude people rather than to draw authentic Christians together for worship and witness...[inerrantists] attribute inerrancy only to the original manuscripts, which do not exist... [In so doing] [t]hey kill the ordinary meaning of the word with the death of a thousand qualifications...

...If the Bible’s authority depends on its inerrancy but only the original manuscripts were inerrant , then only the original manuscripts were authoritative. The logic is impeccable and irresistible. And if “inerrancy” is compatible with flawed approximations, faulty chronologies, and use of incorrect sources by the biblical authors, it is a meaningless concept...

...I just don’t think... [inerrancy is]... the best word for what we believe. What we all believe that really matters is that the Bible is inspired, authoritative and infallible in all matters of faith and practice. Our difference lies in the fact that I don’t think a word is all that important; what’s important is our common belief in the Bible as God’s word. (emphasis are mine)
I'll go further to say that the belief in the Bible as God's word is not common. I prefer Karl Barth's view that the Bible is a media that bears witness to God's word rather than to say the Bible is God's word.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Iron Eschaton 2

Another reason why watch Iron Man: Tony Stark drives an Audi R8 in the movie!

Last Saturday, after the session 'Opened Eyes in a Darkened Room', where we discussed the movie 'The Truman Show', I was crossing the street towards Bugis MRT station. And right in front of me is this brand new R8. I was shocked but pretended not to be.

I held my cool while peeping the car while walked pass in front of it. After I have walked pass the silver iron, I turned to check its back. My hormones boiled. My God... perhaps, Eve is not the only creature created out of Adam...

Iron Eschaton!


One of the 4 Marvel Knights! At last~ When I got hold my first copy of Iron Man comic 11 years ago, I hope there will be movie made of it. Here it is!

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Divine Spiration of Scripture















The Divine Spiration of Scripture is authored by A.T.B McGowan, Honorary Prof. of Reformed Doctrine at Univ. of Aberdeen. At the same time, he is
the Principal of the Highland Theological College, Adjunct Professor of Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and a Visiting Professor of Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in the USA. He also serves as Vice President of the World Reformed Fellowship. (his appointments at all these hyper-Reformed institutions means that he is outrightly Reformed top-down, left-right, in-out!!!)
The book is his evaluation of the doctrine of Scripture among Evangelical circles. Although McGowan being from the tradition of the Reformed, his book is being nonsensically and negatively criticized by other Reformed people like John R. de Witt. Just a note, de Witt's review was published by Banner of Truth press, the publisher that specializes in publishing century(ies) old books.

Anyway, in the book, McGowan thinks the term 'inerrancy' is not a biblical term and not required in confessional document (p.105-106). That alone would have set the inerrantists on wild fire. When I got to know that McGowan, the Vice President of the World Reformed Fellowship, thinks that inerrancy is irrelevant to Christian faith, I naturally feel 'justified' and at the same time anticipate to see the red faces of Reformed people like de Witt and those from Reformation21. It's amusing to see them being irritated...hahaha..

Alright, you are encouraged to read McGowan's book because he
  • reconsiders the place of Scripture in theological systems, and argues that it should be relocated, in order to emphasize that it is an aspect of God's self-revelation and the work of the Holy Spirit.

  • revisits the vocabulary used to articulate the doctrine, with some proposals for new terminology.

  • examines the important differences between two evangelical positions, 'inerrancy' and 'infallibility', with some further proposals for strengthening an evangelical doctrine.

  • addresses two key issues – the relationship between Scripture and our creeds and confessions, and how Scripture is preached in the context of the life of the church.
And seldom there are Reformed theologians who will explore this subject so constructively. If you are still not convinced, go grab it for no other reason that it annoys inerrantists like de Witt!


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rowan Williams on Christian Life & Belief

After lamenting by blogging on Christian failing to live Christianly, I came across Rowan Williams' response to a question posted to him during his visit to Cambridge in February. I find his response relevant to the sad situation of being a failing Christian:

Do you find it easy to believe?

Archbishop:
I don't find it easy to lead a life worthy of my belief. I think that's where the shoe pinches most acutely. I think I can only say I find it natural to believe, or at least I can't imagine living without that belief. It's been part of me for all my adult life and quite a bit of my pre-adult life as well. And to say its part of me, in that sense, doesn't mean it's easy, meaning 'oh well, I never give it a second thought' or 'it's all perfectly obvious', it just means that I can't quite see how else to imagine and inhabit the world. But the difficult thing is living as if I meant it and I would guess that's not just my problem, though it may be more my problem than many other people's problem. Because what I believe is something which puts my life into such a radically truthful perspective, that it does frighten me, as I said on Wednesday – because I wasn't talking just about them but about us/me - when talking about allergy to the truth and the fear that comes with it. So, not easy in the sense of 'it's obvious, no problems', not difficult in the sense that I'm daily struggling to make sense of a really difficult conundrum, but a place where I can't imagine not living, and which is constantly, unsparingly difficult to make real, in my actions and choices.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

No Magnum Opus From Favourite Theologian?

"I started out as a theologian thinking that it would be fairly straight forward to write large books about Christian doctrine...but I began to realise some of the dangers of writing large books about Christian doctrine is in the risk of supposing that when you have done it you might think that you've done it...maybe one day I will find it in me to write a big book such as I fantasised about when I was a student – but I rather doubt it." - Rowan Williams on writing.
Does that mean no magnum opus from Rowan Williams? *tsk tsk*

Si Beh Pai Seh

I have to blog this.

Just now, one of my customer told me something told to him by one of his subcontractor.

This subconstrator's daily task is to provide all kinds of electrical-related household services to the public. That means, if you need another electricity powerpoint, you look for him. If you need to install a security camera, you look for him. If you need any services related to wires and electricity in the house, you look for him.

This subcontractor is a Christian. Though he is, yet his outlook as a contractor doesn't bear the typical Christian image (white-collared middle class citizens). So, when he goes into someone's house, very unlikely he will be noticed as a Christian.

And do you know what did this subcontrator told my customer?

Throughout his career, in his routine of going in and out of countless households to perform his duty, he has encountered many people in their private space, that is their home. With the extensive experiences of encountering people at their own home, he remarked astonishingly that the worst type of his customers are Christians. And the worst among the worst are pastors and their spouse!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New Presby Colleague!

My new colleague who became a Presbyterian after she looked up church history! We are from the same Presbyterian church. She is from the Mandarin congregation. And guess what's the reason I, a closet Anglican, attend a Presbyterian church? Because Steven Sim recommends!

Pathetic, compared to my new colleague, right?

Anyway, that's not the most surprising thing I discovered about her. Just now, after lunch, she revealed her frequent Sunday visits to Stephen Tong's evening services!!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Packer on Van Til on Barth

"...I regard Barth as an eccentric Evangelical rather than Cornelius Van Til dismissing him as a re-constructive liberal..."
- Systematic Theology A: God, Communication & Communion (Regent audio lecture)


What about you? Do you think Karl Barth an Evangelical or a liberal?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hear Say 250-300

Hear say that Malaysia government sponsors a conservative estimation of 250-300 number of Malaysian phD candidates for Islamic Studies worldwide annually.

The scholarship covers full tuition fee, accommodation, allowances of 800 pounds for those who are in the UK, and on top of that, they still get their monthly salary!

To be fair and multicultural, Malaysia government should also provide such scholarship to Christian, Buddhist, and other religion students to pursue their religious studies.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Choked by Theology

Given the limitation of time and money, I'm not able to really sit down and bury my face in my books.

Just a few months back, I was busy with history of the ancient Israel, the relation between science and theology, biblical theology, and further back, the historical Jesus. Now I'm looking into systematic/dogmatic theology. And each of these subjects keep developing. Every month, publishers keep coming out with tomes and tomes of literatures. Every month, my rented room has less and less space for books. Goodness... capitalized academia!

The best thing to do is, of course, to focus. I told myself a few times to focus only on one subject at a time. I did that. The time given to each subject is rather short. Hence, not much that one can do with it. And I wonder what am I doing with my life.

Among those (ranging from my friends to my customers) who already told me that I should continue to pursue my interest, the most recent fellow who told me so Don Hagner. Met him at TTC the other night. After the lecture, I was supposed to wait for Gordon Wong. While waiting, the principal came to talk with me and nalika. This is my first time talking to the boss of the college. A warm person, apparently.

He extolled us to engage Don Hagner, something that I didn't thought of doing. But since he insists, I approached Don and joined into the conversation which he was having with Jimmy, an Indonesian pastor. Found out that Jimmy was talking about the Jesus Seminar. I was surprised because to me, the seminar is now so irrelevant to current historical Jesus research.

Anyway, I joined in the conversation by asking Don one question. Somehow my fate-lessness with theological studies was mentioned. And somehow names and institutions and books got leaked out from my mouth. After that, Don looked at me and said that I should be doing what the rest are telling me, that I should be pursuing theological studies. Then I remind him that, as a presbyterian just as Don is, I am predestined not to be studying at this point of my life. And Don responded, "Then keep doing what you are doing now..." He even asked me to teach in my church. "WOW LAU... siaol meh?", I thought!

Ambivalence.

Dont know should I take that as an encouragement or something else. Anyway, the next day, I googled Don Hagner to learn more about him. Found out that his commentary on Matthew is an award-winner, and he has an essay on Paul and Judaism. So I emailed him to meet up for a coffee session. Since he replied that he will be free most of the afternoon, probably we'll meet up next Tuesday.

Seems like next week will be a NT week to me. Meeting Kar Yong and Don Hagner, two NT scholars, in a week. The only NT subject that I know a bit of is the historical Jesus research. Goodness... I think I'll need to read up a bit on NT so that my frequency is in-tune with theirs.

OK...got to go home to change for St. James Powerhouse now. Hope I will get enough rest later because I have security duty tomorrow morning at the church. That means no drinking for tonight.

Why Catholics & Protestants Can't See Eye to Eye?

Dwight Longenecker wrote:

My niece's husband is a trainee Baptist pastor. Jimbo's hip, friendly, and fun to be with.

He's smart and theologically savvy. I like him. He loves Jesus and believes the Bible, and on most moral and doctrinal issues I can affirm what he affirms. We agree on a lot.

But even when we agree, we don't see eye to eye...

...the fundamental differences between Catholicism and Protestantism are not doctrinal or ethical. The different propositional codes of the two heritages are but manifestations, tips of the iceberg, of more fundamentally differing sets of symbols.

The Catholic ethic is "communitarian"; and the Protestant "individualistic" because of the preconscious "organizing" pictures of the two traditions that shape meaning and response to life for members of the respective heritages are different. Catholics and Protestants "see the world differently...

Read the rest here

Friday, April 04, 2008

S.Tong Rejects Process Theology For What?

In one of his recorded sermon, Stephen Tong said that he rejects process theology because:
1) it is an anthropomorphizing attempt; it makes God to be too human
2) God does not participate the process in this world because he doesn't change

To me, these two reasons are not valid theologically, philosophically, and biblically.

Rowan Williams highlighted 3 dimensions of theology: (1) doxology; all theology must lead to praise & adoration of God, (2) meaning; all theology should be made apprehensible to everyone, (3) orthodoxy; all theology meant to correct falsehood.

Process theology concerns these 3 dimensions, thus it inevitably functions just like other theology. Since one of the function is to make God apprehensible, it is inevitable that we will try to conceptualize God as apprehensible as possible while being aware that that is an almost impossible task. And that is not to 'humanize' God, as alleged by Stephen Tong. Two are different.

"God does not partake the process in the world"? Probably Stephen Tong has been too busy preaching and stop catching up with other Reformed thinkers like Jurgen Moltmann? Since the 1970s, the perception of God actively participating in the world, particularly in history, has been discussed in the theological scene. Theologically, the fact that the divine Christ being a historical figure, participating humanity in the course of world history, is a strong point for suggesting that God experiences the process in our history.

Secondly, participating in the process of history does not make God ever-changing. A simple example is this: Any maturing person can always be faithful to his/her spouse. The maturing person goes through historical process and yet able to remain unchanging in his/her marriage vow.

Thus if Stephen Tong really mean that God does not participate in the historical process because he is immutable, then I think he is God in a box. The idea of faith is that God is trustworthy. Whether will he keeps his promises is not up for us to determine. He has assure us through revelation that he keep promises. We can only trust in such tension. The future is not yet realized, thus we cannot be certain. Stephen Tong should know better since he adheres to 'progress revelation'. If we say that God is immutable just to make ourselves feel more secured, then ultimately we are theologizing not for doxology, understanding, or apologetic, but just to feed our own whims.

Stephen Tong should also realize that the development of biblical theology in the past 40 years has again and again show the active relationship between YHWH with his people with the climax in the Christ event. God's dealings with his people is mutual and reciprocal.

All these even without involving the theological discourse on scientific data!

If he wants to criticize a certain theology on the pulpit, he should do so carefully without propagating false idea to the congregation. A pastor who is not theologically trained is inept those who are not pastorally dedicated. Stephen Tong is theologically trained but lack in progress (his theology resembles the 17th century puritan theology). He is pastorally trained but lack commitment to discipleship (his main focus is regional evangelism). Thus I think he is neither a good contemporary theologian nor pastor. Yes, he has good intention, but then again, who doesn't?


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tremper Longman on Peter Enns & WTS

Got this from Scripture & Theology. Tremper Longman, one of the best OT scholar who belongs to the Reformed tradition comments concerning Westminster Theological Seminary and its decision to suspend Peter Enns:

I cannot speak to all the issues that this web page addresses, but I can speak with some measure of authority concerning biblical studies at WTS. I was a student from 1974-1977, where I was captivated by the teaching of many professors, but most notably Ray Dillard who was my mentor and was soon to be my colleague and close friend. I taught Old Testament at the school from 1981 to 1998 with Ray, Bruce Waltke, and Al Groves. I was involved with these friends in the hiring of Peter Enns (as well as Doug Green). I have continued as Visiting Professor of Old Testament since 1998 till the present. I have recently written an article on E. J. Young for the Dictionary of Biblical Interpreters that has taken me back to the earlier history of the school’s instruction in biblical studies.

I have a great love for the school to say the least. I like to say that there is no institution I love as much as Westminster Seminary. However one of the reasons why I left in 1998 was my perception that the seminary was beginning to change from the deeply Reformed but outward facing institution that it was from the time that I first knew it in the 1970’s to a more inward defensive institution. I remember talking to one colleague, for instance, who told me that if I felt the Bible taught something that the Confession did not that I had to side with the Confession. That’s not the Reformed approach to the study of the Bible that I know and love. However it is a perspective that I think has only grown with time

In any case, I have no desire to cast aspersions on anyone. I think everyone is acting out of a good conscience in this. This, however, I can say with a great measure of confidence. The present Old Testament department represents continuity with the past. I work closely with Peter Enns. We are co-editing two Bible dictionaries together and are on a number of editorial boards. I have served as his editor for his wonderful Exodus commentary and have read his important Incarnation and Inspiration three times. In my own speaking and teaching, I have talked to countless people whose faith has been increased and whose confidence in the Bible has been enhanced by reading this book. His thinking is clearly within the Princeton-Westminster tradition. If WTS loses him or anyone else, I worry who might replace them. Will they continue the WTS tradition while still not “shirking the difficult questions”? I know what I think about the matter and I am confident that my dear departed friend Ray Dillard would agree.

I would encourage my former students and others to express their support for the OT department at WTS. Notice I am asking for shows of support. We can do this without casting aspersions on anyone at the seminary. (emphasis mine)


I think, sometimes, those who submit to the Reformed tradition need to wash their face and wake up to the morning sun. During the early stage of the Reformation, the Reformed was known to be doing 'cutting-edge' bible studies, as exemplified in the works of Luther and Calvin. But in our present day, I seldom see such attitude to bible studies from those who hold to the Reformed tradition anymore. Longman, Waltke, Provan, Carson etc are the few that I know of. But even their works are not widely read by the lay Reformed folks.

Reformed folks should either cry and repent, or laugh and keep believing that you are still in the 16th century.

Website by Westminster-related people who are trying to save their seminary:
http://saveourseminary.com/


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Scripture & Theology

Very interesting website: Scripture & Theology

Scripture & Theology is a new e-magazine dedicated to the relationship between biblical interpretation and the articulation of church doctrine. It exists by and for teachers of the church, which is to say, theologian-exegetes and exegetical theologians whether in academics, ministry, or the laity.

That means this website discusses matters concerning the relation between biblical studies and systematic theology. My very cup of tea!!