Friday, October 31, 2008

Have you met a real idiot?


Yip Khiong directed me to a blog by someone who attended New Creation Church and think that Prosperity Gospel is the 'true gospel' of Jesus Christ. At first Yip Khiong and myself thought this guy has something to offer in hermeneutic, but upon reading his post I can reasonably conclude that this person doesn't know what is he talking about:

I am sure Satan will not sit still and let me destroy his kingdom. He sent theologians to advise me to repent from the heresy on believing in Jesus and return into lies of theology. One of the them called me a liar and said Jesus never die poor for us to live rich. When I showed him the evidence, he changed the meaning of it just like any good theologian.

This is another opportunity for us to learn more about the true meaning of the Bible and at the same time expose the lies of theology.

I am sure theologians will tell us that God can give us troubles and make us poor in order for us to be filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity just like what he did to the churches in Macedonia. This is nothing more than theology, a lie from the pit of hell.

They chose to believe in the truth of God and not on the lies of theology.

This verse sets Paul apart from the theologians...Paul wanted to find out what the weak points are in order to fix them. Paul was an engineer.

[Referring to 2 Cor 8.9]This is the truth that is able to shatter the foundation of theology.

It appears that this person doesn't know anything about theology at all; what is theology, the function of theology, the scope & limit of theology, and the foundation of theology. And this person doesn't even realize that all of what he has written is his theology.

This resembles someone who wrote a long English article complaining that English doesn't help to convey meaning or make semantic sense.

This is not someone who suffers from down syndrome or mentally challenged. This is utter idiotic; some form of 'damned stupidity'. The manifestation of the worst noetic effects.

Blessed Reformation Day

This morning, I SMS a few friends, wishing, "About 491 years ago, a monk nailed his 95 theses on the door of a castle church. Since then the world is never the same again. Happy Reformation Day!"

And some of their humorous replies make my day:
Steven Sim: A monk vandalizing the church! This is scandalous... I thought Buddhist are meant to be peaceful and otherworldly.

Zhenhow: You are so Reformed... I almost forgot about it. All hail Martin Luther!

Kenneth: I think I need to burn a papal bull...
So what's your caption on the nailing of the 95 these and the effected Reformation?
My own is: Actually the monk was repairing the wreck church door. And since his these fit well to stop the 'cricking' sound, he innocently nailed it there without realizing that pedestrians would make a big buzz of it through the centuries.

Thinking Abstract

One of the comments I received from a psuedo-persona on my post Sin & Divine Image is this objection:
Sze Zeng, your writing is pretty abstract. Can't understand a thing you wrote. You need to re-learn.
My response is that unless you are able to think and understand the abstract, you still haven't think and understand the real world. Whether one realizes it or not, the world is very often governed by abstractions (think liberal-capitalism, democracy, or communism among many others).

Roman Catholics (finally) recognizing women's role


In the recent 55 propositions proposed by the Roman Catholic's Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, proposition no.17 states,

It’s hoped that ministry of lector can be opened also to women, so that their role as announcers of the Word may be recognized in the Christian community.

Noticed the last two words "Christian community". Er... in the wider Christian community, the so-called "ministry of lector" is already opened to women and their role as announcers of the Word already been recognized.

The Roman Catholics is progressing.

Happy Reformation Day!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On the Preface of 'Destined to Reign'

Caution Point 1: Joseph Prince’s criterion to validate divine revelation is dubious and hence dangerous.

His criterion can be shared with Joseph Smith (the founder of Mormonism who claimed to be authorized by John the Baptist, St. Peter, St. James, and St. John themselves), David Brandt Berg (founder of The Family/Children of God who claimed to had a vision of Jesus having sex with Mary and Martha), and Ahn Sahng Hong (founder of the Church of God who claimed himself as the second Christ).

Joseph Prince (JP) claims that he received a divine revelation in 1997. God said to him,

Son, you are not preaching grace…Every time you preach grace, you preach it with a mixture of law. You attempt to balance grace with the law like many other preachers, and the moment you balance grace, you neutralize it. You cannot put new wine into old wineskins. You cannot put grace and law together…Son, a lot of preachers are not preaching grace the way Apostle Paul preached grace…If you don’t preach grace radically, people’s lives will never be radically blessed and radically transformed.” (p.vii)

JP deem the growing numbers and the transformed lives in his congregation as God’s validation to His direct order stated above,

“…soon after my encounter with the Lord…we began to experience explosive growth in the church year after year, and by the grace of our Lord, more than 15,000 attended our services on the first Sunday of 2007. The Lord has validated His word not only in our growing congregation, but also in the radical transformation of thousands of precious lives exposed to the radical preaching of grace.” (p.viii)

If growing numbers and transformed lives are divine validation on certain experiences, then the revelations experienced by Joseph Smith, David B. Brandt, and Ahn Sahng Hong are as valid as JP’s own. In fact, to use the same criterion, the divine encounters of the former three are much more validated given their greater number of congregants and transformed lives as compared to JP’s.

Hence if the same criterion applies, there is no difference between Joseph Prince’s divine experiences and that of Joseph Smith. Both Josephs’ ministries have growing numbers and transformed lives as God’s validations over His words to them. If that were the case, the members of JP’s congregation or JP himself would have to acknowledge Joseph Smith’s ministry as valid as theirs.

Nonetheless I am not discounting religious experience or epiphany. I am questioning the validity of certain criterion used by certain people to verify such unusual encounters.

A Deeper Look At Joseph Prince’s Destined to Reign

This review restrictively concerns the philosophical and theological claims made by Joseph Prince throughout the book. By philosophical, I mean the logical framework that governs all our pursuit for reasonableness and meaning; and by theological, I mean all the resulting conclusions about God, which are broadly arrived through generations of collective understanding of the Bible within the complex yet historically discernible Christian tradition.

This exercise will be carried through chapter by chapter. Numerical ‘Caution Points’ are used to signify the various issues found within each chapter. This is to make clear what is at stake at every chapter, and hence also to highlight the issues with much clarity for the readers’ further studies.

1) On the Preface

2) On Chapter 1: Destined To Reign

3) On Chapter 3: Controversies Surrounding The Gospel of Grace

4) On Chapter 5: Is God Judging America?

5) On Chapter 7: The Gospel That Paul Preached

6) On Chapter 8: The Main Clause On The New Covenant

7) On Chapter 9: The Waterfall Of Forgiveness

8) On Chapter 13: The Gift Of No Condemnation

9) On Chapter 14: No More Consciousness of Sin

Appendix 1: Joseph Prince, Sins, and 10 Commandments

Relationship's mechanism



~A happy relationship is made up of two forgivers~


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tony Siew on 'pistis Christou'

Yesterday, after my last class ended, I had a short chat with Tony Siew over St. Paul. And among many other fascinating things we talked about, I asked Siew's view over the term ' pistis Christou' (Gal 2.16). The translation of this ambivalent term could render it to be 'faith of Christ' or 'faith in Christ'.

Since the language alone does not clear the vagueness of this term, inevitable we have to source our understanding of it through a wider consideration, such as the overall theology of St. Paul (if that is indeed possible).

Nonetheless Siew's opinion is rather unique and deserves further exploration. I'll transpose Wright and Dunn's conversation over this issue with Siew's opinion here:
Wright (who favors 'faith of Christ'): My own view is based entirely on Romans 3. I do not claim that Paul must have always meant the same thing by the phrase wherever it occurs, but I think Romans 3 creates a presupposition in that direction. Paul says in Romans 3:1-3 that the Israelites who were entrusted with the oracles of God were faithless, which leaves a problem for God because God is committed to working through Israel to save the world. What is required is a faithful Israelite in fulfillment of God’s covenant faithfulness, so when in 3:21 he says God has unveiled his covenant faithfulness, dia pisteōs Iēsou Christou, eis pantas tous pisteuontas, I find every reason to translate “God has unveiled his covenant faithfulness through the faithfulness of Jesus for the benefit of all who believe,” both halves of which are important. I think what Paul means by “the faithfulness of Jesus” there is not Jesus’ belief system or act of faith, but his faithfulness to God’s saving plan, which is the same thing as his obedience as we find it in Romans 5. Therefore, I hold my mind open to hearing the same things in Galatians and elsewhere.

Dunn (who favors 'faith in Christ'): ...it’s pretty clear to me in some key passages, particularly Galatians 3, that pistis language is being used of Christian faith, to use that shorthand... But what strikes me again and again is that Paul starts his talk of in Galatians 3 with Abraham: “Even so Abraham ‘believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith (ek pisteos) who are sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:6, 7, NASB). It’s pretty obvious to me that this means “you believed as Abraham believed”; and it is that pistis reference which sets the pattern for the pistis references throughout the chapter. That would be one of the lines of argument I would want to develop.

Siew: (paraphrase) I think it is 'faith in Christ', yet that does not reject the idea that we are justified by the faithfulness of Christ. When one believed in Jesus, I'll take it to mean believing in the life, death, and resurrection of the historical Jesus. And that includes the faithfulness of the historical Jesus. So although I interpret the phrase in Gal 2.16 as 'faith in Chirst', that necessarily encompasses, not excludes, Christ's faithfulness.

In different words, if I understand Siew rightly, he is suggesting that the phrase is to be understood as St. Paul's shorthand for writting 'faith in the faith of Christ'. This somehow reminds me of John Owen's book 'The Death of Death in the Death of Christ'.

Siew should consider writing on this. A book perhaps, since Richard Hays who differs with him has his own.

Tas Walker Lecturing In Singapore

Dr. Tas Walker will be in Singapore to lecture on 'Intelligent Design'. He has a Bachelor of Science majoring in Earth Science with first class honours, a Bachelor of Engineering with first class honours in Mechanical Engineering and a Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering.

Here is his schedule:

  • Saturday 8 November, 2:00pm–5:00pm, public meeting, Chapel of Christ the Redeemer, 2 Tampines Avenue 3, Singapore, 529706.
      Intelligent Design in the Living World
      Dismantling the Arguments Against Design

  • Saturday 8 November, 7:30pm–10:00pm, public meeting, Community of Praise Baptist Church, 18 Boon Lay Way, #04–127, TradeHub 21, Singapore, 609966
      Intelligent Design in the Living World
      Dismantling the Arguments Against Design

  • Sunday 9 November, 9:00am, Eternal Life Assembly, Bukit Timah Conference Centre, Level 5 & 6, Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, Singapore, 588179.
      Biblical Creation and Intelligent Design

  • Tuesday 11 November, 7:30pm–10:00pm, public meeting, Singapore Life Church, 144 Prinsep Street, Singapore, 188657.
      Intelligent Design in the Living World
      Dismantling the Arguments Against Design

  • Wednesday 12 November, 7:30pm–10:00pm, public meeting, Leng Kwang Baptist Church, 365 Bukit Timah Road, Singapore, 259726.
      Intelligent Design in the Living World
      Dismantling the Arguments Against Design

  • Thursday 13 November, 7:30pm, public meeting, Eternal Life Baptist Church, 28A Kim Keat Road, Singapore, 328808.
      Intelligent Design in the Living World
      Dismantling the Arguments Against Design

  • Friday 14 November, 7:30pm–10:00pm, public meeting, Queenstown Baptist Church, 495 Margaret Drive, Singapore,149305.
      Intelligent Design in the Living World
      Dismantling the Arguments Against Design

  • Saturday 15 November, 4:00pm–6:00pm, public meeting, Bethesda (Frankel Estate) Church, 4 La Salle Street, Singapore, 456930.
      Biblical Creation and Intelligent Design

  • Saturday 15 November, 7:30pm–10:00pm, Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church, 408–B, Upper East Coast Road, Singapore, 466484.
      Intelligent Design in the Living World
      Dismantling the Arguments Against Design

  • Sunday 16 November, 9:30am, New Life Bible–Presbyterian Church, 10 Marsiling Lane, Singapore, 739147.
      Biblical Creation and Intelligent Design

Interesting Views on Life

Very interesting to know someone who thinks somewhat alike. Zizek's opinions:

What makes you depressed?
Seeing stupid people happy.

What do you owe your parents?
Nothing, I hope. I didn't spend a minute bemoaning their death.


What does love feel like?

Like a great misfortune, a monstrous parasite, a permanent state of emergency that ruins all small pleasures.


If you could edit your past, what would you change?

My birth. I agree with Sophocles: the greatest luck is not to have been born - but, as the joke goes on, very few people succeed in it.

What is the right Q?

And today obviously all the predominant narratives — the old liberal-left welfare state narrative; the post-modern third-way left narrative; the neo-conservative narrative; and of course the old standard Marxist narrative — they don’t work. We don’t have a narrative. Where are we? Where are we going? What to do? You know, we have these stupid elementary questions: Is capitalism here to stay? Are there serious limits to capitalism? Can we imagine a popular mobilization outside democracy? How should we properly react to ecology? What does it mean, all the biogenetic stuff? How to deal with intellectual property today? Things are happening. We don’t have a proper approach. It’s not only that we don’t have the answers. We don’t even have the right question.
(Slavoj Zizek in an interview dated 22 Sept 2008)

What do you think is the right question? And of course, you don't have to agree with Zizek that we don't have a narrative. I think we do.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sin & Divine Image

So, what is sin?
In 3 words: Sin is unbecoming.

Less than 5 words: Sin is unbecoming human.

In 10 words (or so): Sin is unbecoming who we, humans, are intended to be.

The ideal human is Christ. Jesus being the very image of God is also the very image of the real human. Jesus' mission as the Christ is right the distorted image of God that humans bear by reconstituting humanity (Col 1.15-16).
"Jesus is man as God willed and created him....The nature of the man Jesus is the key to the problem of the human. This man is man." - Karl Barth (Quoted in A.Thiselton's Hermeneutics of Doctrines, p.392)

Jesus being very God and very Human marks the perfect image that every other humans are being measured, loved, criticized and judged. And hence our conforming to be like Jesus is our sacrifice to be Christ-like, the image of the very God and hence the very Human.

In other words, to be a real human is by bearing the real image of God, Jesus.

When sin entered the world, it is the defacing not of humans and creation but also of the very divine image that we reflect. Hence when a human sins, he/she is disfiguring the inherent sacredness, hence entering into the process of unbecoming himself/herself.

Guilty, troubled, and scary... yet hopeful.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Over Euthanasia

Andy Ho published an article on The Staits Times (dated 23 Oct 2008) titled "Look into better care of the dying" as a response to the recent discussion on euthanasia in Singapore's media. He concluded that the government should upgrade the current budget for hospice care before debates on legalizing active euthanasia takes place.

In view of the aging population, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan noted, "I do not know if Singaporeans are ready for euthanasia. But I do know that aging will throw up many more human stories of agony and suffering."

These discussions which are occurring over Singapore landscape betrays the realistic and complicated view over the issue of life in all its glory an gory. The consumerism culture has been pervasive in drilling the notion of youthfulness into us. Hence many times our view of the world get distorted. We might be thinking that we are in Eden but it does not take long for those anti-aging advertisements on the newspapers grab our notice.

The perennial debates on euthanasia, abortion, just-war & etc are really debates about the status and the identity of human person. What does it mean to be human?

To draw a perspective through euthanasia, the question whether does a person who is socially and economically unproductive (or even passively counterproductive- passive in the sense that they can't prevent themselves from aging) still worth to be provided with medical care? Do these people deserve monetary subsidies and aid by government and family?

An appropriate response, be it Christian or not, cannot be a stringent 'Yes' or 'No' before we acknowledge the difference in each cases. Alex Tang helpfully highlights the difference between a few broad categories in his book, A Good Day To Die: Active Euthanasia, Passive Euthanasia, Voluntary Euthanasia, Involuntary Euthanasia, and Non-Voluntary Euthanasia. (p.13-14)

The small book (with more than 140 references of publication!) discusses options and opinions across the spectrum of the debate without losing its focus on the status and the identity of a human person. Again the question "What does it mean to be human?" underlies each opinions addressed by both pro-euthanasia and anti-euthanasia groups.

As a practicing medical doctor and a theologian, Alex Tang reveals that his stand over this issue grounded under the principle of the sanctity of human life, the sovereignty of God, and the principle of human stewardship (p.117). I think these 3 patterns serve as strong and rightful ground in the debate not only for doctor who are facing this issue, but also to all of us who are concern over the status and the identity of the struggling humans, in particularly ourselves.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Do You Really Know Jesus Personally?

I received an ad hominem today:

You appear to be a scholarly and intellectual person. You write as though you know much OF GOD and OF JESUS, but do you really know JESUS personally?...

Joshua, you are a young man and a juvenile in life. And after looking at your blog, I would go further to say that you have not seen much in life, and is fortunate or BLESSED to be encircled in a relatively safe environment.

Does this blog reveal so much about me? I am especially intrigued by the question, "...do you really know JESUS personally?" I can't help but to say that this is a domestication of Christianity in one of its worst form. How far more individualistic can one be by adhering to such nonsense?

Was on the phone with Steven Sim last night on such stupidity. He pointed back to the kind of idolatry Albert Schweitzer, one of our 'hero', noted a century ago on those who look deep into the well to know Jesus. In the end, it appears that the Jesus they saw is their own reflection.

Possible Danger of the Genome Project

"One of the dangers of the Genome Project is that it is possible to identify specific genes belonging to a particular group of people. For example, the gene for sickle cell disease is specific to Afridans. Thus, it is possible to create a virus that will specifically destructive to that gene. It can then be released and will cause genocide among the Africans, a sort of biological "smart bomb".
(Alex Tang, A Good Day to Die, p.90, n.18)

Scary! If there is such technology, and if it fell into the hand of idiots like Ahmad Ismail, I can't imagine how horrible the world will be.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

City Harvest Church and St. Peter on Beauty

Upon reading the recent reporting of a beauty pageant being held at City Harvest Church's (CHC) annual Emerge! (youth) Conference, I'm led to ask, "Is beauty pageant compatible with Christ, particularly within Christ Body, that is the Church?"

I'm all out for promoting aesthetics within churches and among Christians, but I have always referring to the architecture, the message, the public appeal of the Church and individual Christians. I have never thought about the physical appeal of the members of the Church. So yes I agree that beauty must not be overlooked in churches, yet when it comes to the individual Christians' adornment, I have yet to consider. Hence CHC's event is intriguing.

Since my approach to aesthetics is rooted within the purpose of such beauty (for eg. meaningful architecture that points to the reality of life and the transcendence reality of God) and our vocation to beautify reality, I think it does help to ask what values is CHC promoting through Beauty Pageant?

The only value that I can come up with is to present ourselves as decent people. Decent as contra to sloppiness, not ugliness. Hence we ought to beautify ourselves not to attract or seduce people, but making ourselves approachable by others. Here I'm indirectly drawing from St. Peter.

What St. Peter said about beauty?

In 1 Peter 3, St. Peter was writing to "wives", sharing some insights on how to be good wives. He remarked, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

St. Peter was trying to cultivate values that transcend the physical appeal. He emphasized the "inner" beauty rather than the "outer". Eugene Peterson paraphrased it well, "What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in."

And it is interesting to place St. Peter's remark alongside that of CHC's pastor's judging criteria (included physique, confidence, eloquence and overall appearance). We find that St. Peter's criteria do not get along with those of the pageant. Both differ in their emphasis on beauty. St. Peter directs us to the inner beauty while CHC the outer.

Isn't it puzzling to see a CHC's event that does not conform with its own Statement of Faith that says, "The scriptures are infallible, inerrant and the sole and final authority for all matters of faith and conduct."

Hermeneutics on Sales Talk


A walk down the Orchard Road or any other busy commercial mall, you will find yourself being approached by people who tell you that they are conducting a survey or asking for opinions of the current Bank's interest rate for savings. And most of such encounters are sales initiated. If to put a number to this, 9.9 out of 10 times are all methods devised by sales executives. The last time I had such encounter was at Toa Payoh interchange yesterday.

Being an 'insider', I know why certain questions are asked. Take the most common ones: If you are young, these executives will ask, "Are you working or studying?" If your accent or looks doesn't fit the typical Singaporean slang or image, you will be asked, "Are you a local or foreigner?"

Both of these questions are important questions in the business. The former is meant to find out what is your economic status; whether do you have purchasing power. The second question is to see if you can enter into a contract with them. If you are a foreigner and not planning to stay in Singapore for long, then very likely you are not a potential customer.

If in the survey form where you have to put in your income category (for eg. $1000-2500 per month), then it is to find out how much purchasing power do you have. If you are asked how much do you save per month, it is to see what plan can they propose to you. And usually they want your contact number to follow-up on you.

The one unusual encounter, which I think interesting, is when I was at Bugis Junction. I was rushing to an event when a female sales executive popped out in the middle of the crowd with a big, "Hi!", and then followed by, "Haven't see you for a while. Do you remember me?'. And I have never met her!

I remember an interesting remark made by Chee Seong, a friend who was an industrial sales executive, on another Sze Yih, another friend who is an insurance sales executive. Chee Seong said that whenever Sze Yih says something like how good his business is, that means he is hiring people to work for him. Whenever he says that his business is bad, that means he wants you to sign up some policies with him.

Though there are some truth in that, I would caution that we should not see our friend in that way. Who knows he is really sharing his life's facets with us when he talks about his business.

Lastly, whenever you are being approached by a sales executive, and if you have time, you might want to spare some minutes for them. Who knows that they, in return, able to provide you with a helpful and good product that you need (for eg. for retirement or medical fees). Many people, be it city dwellers or villagers, are helped through these executives.

What other approaches have you encountered before?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Engaging, comprehensive, practical & intelligent Christian responses to current economy crisis


Simon Barrow and his team at Ekklesia has produced a very helpful and thorough discussion of the current global crisis. Their constructive piece titled 'Towards An Economy Worth Believing In' is by far, as I am able to observe, the most compelling piece representing an intelligent Christian response to the issue. Although it is written from a Western vantage point, the piece has much relevance especially in examining the role of churches around the world which are more or less caught within this global predicament.

On the other hand, Rowan Williams has himself written a reflection on the current situation,

"Behind all this, though, is the deeper moral issue. We find ourselves talking about capital or the market almost as if they were individuals, with purposes and strategies, making choices, deliberating reasonably about how to achieve aims. We lose sight of the fact that they are things that we make. They are sets of practices, habits, agreements which have arisen through a mixture of choice and chance. Once we get used to speaking about any of them as if they had a life independent of actual human practices and relations, we fall into any number of destructive errors...

And ascribing independent reality to what you have in fact made yourself is a perfect definition of what the Jewish and Christian Scriptures call idolatry...We need to be reacquainted with our own capacity to choose — which means acquiring some skills in discerning true faith from false, and re-learning some of the inescapable face-to-face dimensions of human trust."

Soo-Inn has chipped in some of his down-to-earth wisdom, encouraging Christians to play our crucial part,

"This is no time for the church to be in any "I told you so" stance. Instead the church is called to reach out to the broken. Financial difficulties often reveal other areas of brokenness already present in the lives of people."

Thinking as the discerning attitude that we must cultivate for ourselves and the generation that we are raising. This is the gist of N.T. Wright's recent sermon which has the current crisis highlighted,

"We live in a world of unreason, where right and wrong have been reduced to personal preferences and ‘attitudes’, which can then be manipulated by smooth talk – like the verbal shift which says ‘credit’ when it means ‘debt’, and the equivalents of that in every sphere – and where people don’t need to think because they can drift along with the current mood. And you and I know that the next generation will need – boy, will they need! – to be able to think: to think hard, to think through where the world is going and what they need to do in it, to think not about how they can feather their own nests but how they can wisely serve their fellow human beings in God’s world."

With a brief analysis of the situation, Tony Siew has directed some suggestions to individual Christians and churches on our own financial habits,

"What are Christians to do? First, spend within our means and have souIf possible save and deposit at least 20% of the house purchase price and do not take more than a 80% mortgage. The Bible says, "The borrower is slave to the lender" (Prov 22:7). If we have a wind-fall then use the money to repay debts or settle the home mortgage sooner instead of using the money for some other unnecessary spending...

As for churches, I suggest we take a breather from building projects in light of the financial down-turn. If already committed, get out of it if possible. If at all possible the church should not be indebted to anyone or institution."

May the Lord has mercy to us all. May the Holy Wisdom drive us to live our life accordingly. "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength," recalled St. Paul of his own struggles through economic crisis (Phil. 4.11-13).

洪启元敬拜赞美研习会2008



敬拜赞美研习会2008
Chuck Hong's Worship Workshop 2008


24th Oct 2008
7.30pm-9.30pm

25th Oct 2008
9.30am-3.30pm

Venue: 8, New Industrial Road, #04-03, LHK 3 Building, Singapore 536200.

(Click on the image above for more info)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Karas

This is Karas (Japanese: Raven), the guardian of a city who punishes demons or spirits that disrupt or threaten the lives of city dwellers. Each city has its own Karas. And each Karas is managed by a Yurine. Yurine is the personification of the will of the people of a city. Whenever a city is under demonic attack, and as long as the city's will is strong enough, a Yurine will be born. And through Yurine, a Karas is summoned.

This complicated story starts with Eko, a Karas, rebelling against the will of the Shinjuku city. He recruited demons and had them cybernized, fixing these evil-spirits with mechanical parts, making them stronger and technological advanced. And in response to this threat, a new Karas, governed by a new Yurine, was summoned to stop Eko.



What's interesting is the personalities of these two Karas. The reasons for Eko's rebellion is because he is frustrated and annoyed over the very city he protected for centuries.

Over the years, the people of the city has become arrogant and thought that all that exists is only themselves. The people of the city takes their lives and the environment as a given and hence for granted. They exploit everything for their own unquenchable thirst for vanity.

Hence Eko was disgusted and overwhelmed by disappointment caused by the city. And so he decided to establish his own dominion over the city, to control it. And he did it through the massacres of those who once were under his protection.

On the other hand the new Karas, by the name of Otoha, is one that does not give up hope for the city and its people. He knows the wickedness of the city through his own father, a yakuza who always manipulates and tried to kill him. Yet he possesses very strong will to life and hope. Hence he was summoned to take on the task of the new Karas, to fight against Eko.



The story is about 3 hours long. It is being separated into 6 episodes. The fighting scenes in the first 3 episodes are stunning. This is no typical cartoon or Star-War lightsaber fighting scene. But it probably because of the great opening that the end was deem hard to match. up Hence there is a sense of disconnection in its aesthetics. Overall the story is complex and hard to follow. It's a story for jigsaw puzzles fanatics because unless you do some mental arrangement, you won't understand its story. Not for someone who cannot enjoy Memento or 23.

Consumerism experienced, consumerism loathed.

While I was holding and admiring an orange-colored ladies' sweater, an executive from the store approached me. Though friendly, non-threatening, and incarnating the smiley icon on his face, the first thing the executive said to me was, "This is our latest arrival, you might want to buy this for your girlfriend?" This was at the Giordano store at Great World City.

A few weeks ago while I was browsing through the various albums lying on the display table at one of the retail shop at Suntec City, I met this executive who I saw many times at Tiong Bahru Plaza. Seems that she has been transfered to this branch. Trying to be nice, I greeted her. And right after exchanging greetings, she said to me, "You might want to buy this album for your girlfriend." This is the newly opened media store previously known as That CD Shop.

In both of the above situations, the executives are to be applauded for their 'chop-chop' selling method; those kind of "cut the crap and buy this item right now". This method saves time, energy, and everything else. It represents the ethos of modern economy and management: Efficiency and Effectiveness. Or so they thought.

But actually, not so. I didn't buy any items from both the stores. Why? Simply because I am not comfortable to be regarded as a non-human by another human. In those two moments, right after the executives' imperative, I felt that I'm only a consumer to them. Not a person. I was a being whose life's function is none other than to consume; to buy, buy, buy, and die. Consumption is the means and ends of my life. I live just to consume.

This consumerism philosophy undergirds the approach of these two executives. And once this philosophy is adopted, the value of humans has transformed. Other humans are important only if they consume one's production. This is degrading humanity. The similar assumption underlies Nazi's inhumane experiments done on humans. The difference is that consumerism is much more subtle. That is also why it is much more dangerous. We can rid the Nazi through bombs and guns, but how can we rid off consumerism?

I and others, include the two executives, are humans. Our value as God's creation is irreducible. The Gospel is consumerism's more fearful enemy. Christ of the Gospel is its worst adversary.

And, allowing ourselves to be fooled by this subtlety, we are still wondering why the financial and economic crisis hit us?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Adam & Eve are Russians?

Zhen Hao told me this story which he got it from some where. Here the improvised version:

During an international theological conference, where great and renowned theologians were gathered together to study the book of Genesis, the Russian delegate proposed that Adam and Eve were Russians.

This has cause an uproar among other theologians, especially the middle easterners. The Catholic and Reformed delegates were on the verge of calling brimstone from heaven; the Wesleyan and Lutheran were on their feet; the Anglican and Greek Orthodox had their eye-brow raised. Others were cursing and swearing. Some even tore their clothes while shouting, "Anathema!"

Nonetheless, being theologians, these delegates gathered patience to listen to the Russian's thesis. And after hearing his explanation, everyone calmed down. He gave 3 reasons for his thesis:

First, Adam and Eve had nothing to wear. Their only coverings were sewed fig leaves and animal skins.

Secondly, both Adam and Eve had only one apple which they had to share among themselves.

And lastly, they have been told that they were in paradise.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Daniel I. Block Lectures



Whose Worship Pleases God?: A New Look at Cain and Abel
2pm-3.30pm
22 Nov 2008 (Saturday)
Venue: Zion BP Church, 4 Bishan St. 13


The Ten Commandments: The World's First Bill of Rights
8pm-9.30pm
26 Nov 2008 (Wednesday)
Venue: Zion BP Church, 4 Bishan St. 13


About the Speaker:

Dr. Daniel I. Block is Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. He is currently the President of Institute of Biblical Research. His areas of interest span most of the Old Testament. After spending fourteen years on Ezekiel and four on Judges and Ruth, for the past five years he has been absorbed by the Gospel according to Moses as set out for us in the book of Deuteronomy. In the meantime he has also been heavily involved in the production of the New Living Translation of the Bible. He is also currently working on a manuscript, For the Glory of God: A Biblical Theology of Worship.


For e-registration, please click: http://www.bgst.edu.sg/online_reg

Public Talk: Organ For Sale: A Christian Perspective

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



Organ For Sale: A Christian Perspective
7.15pm
12 November 2008 (Wednesday)
Venue: 420, North Bridge Road, #05-04, North Bridge Center. Opposite National Library
(3-5 mins walk from Bugis MRT)


Featured Panelists:

Dr. Roland Chia
Chew Hock Him Professor of Christian Doctrine and Dean of the School of Postgraduate Studies at Trinity Theological College. Besides being is an expert in the theology of Karl Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar, as exemplified in his book 'Revelation and Theology: The Knowledge of God according to Balthasar and Barth', Dr. Chia's research interest is on the interaction between Christianity and contemporary issues. He is also the consulting editor of 'Cultural Encounters: A Journal for the Theology of Culture' and contributing editor of the 'New Dictionary of Theology.'


Dr. Lee Hin Peng
Professor of the Department of Community, Occupational and Family Medicine at National University of Singapore. He is also a member of the Bioethics Committee Singapore. Dr. Lee's professional articles were published in international medical journals such as Lancet, International Journal of Cancer, and Critical Reviews in Oncology-Hematology.


Dr. Jason Yap
Director of Healthcare Services in the Singapore Tourism Board, and part of the multi-agency SingaporeMedicine initiative to promote, develop and maintain Singapore as an international medical hub. Dr Yap had a broad range of experience in the Ministry of Health, including stints in medical audit and accreditation, national health public policy, hospital operations in Woodbridge Hospital, and as Press Secretary to the Minister. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of SMA’s Centre for Medical Ethics and Professionalism and the Medical Advisory Committee of St Luke’s Hospital.


Limited seating
Please register with gcfsing@gcf.org.sg or call 63386283

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Aesthetical Church

Mega churches are big. Many of them are like any other huge commercial for-rental conference rooms, which are filled with flipping seats and a big stage. What is lacking is obviously the aesthetics.

These huge buildings are 'practical', adopting the credo of any commercialized corporation: Efficient & effective. There is this one Roman Catholic parish, Church of St. Mary of the Angels, in Singapore which refuses such mundane mind-set. And their refusal conferred them with the President's Design Award, "highest recognition of exceptional people of this country, who have played a part not only in creating objects, images and spaces that have made lives more interesting and more comfortable, but have also trail-blazed our pursuit of excellence in design."



It would be wonderful if mega-churches pay more attention on aesthetics instead of more seats so that they can rent it out for corporations. But then again, it's up to individual church's ethos whether they want to emphasize the 'transcendence' (in this case, the aesthetics) or monetary returns.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Soo Inn on the $$$ crisis

Soo-Inn's reflection on the current global financial crisis:


"Trust in me. I will take care of you. I will give you the desires of your heart. I can't guarantee that you won't fall sick but if you do I can get you the best medical care in the world. Travel? Nice things? No problem. Worship me and you will have more happiness in your life than you can handle. You will be popular. People will look up to you. You can continue to have religion. You can go to church. But trust in God? Hey, have you seen Him recently? But hold up a dollar note. Touch it. Smell it. Now that's real! That's security. So, come, worship me."...

But once in awhile mammon's true colours are revealed. Once in awhile, the fact that money is no god at all becomes ridiculously obvious. The present global financial crisis is one such time. Here is one summary of the cause of the present financial crisis. (continue reading)

Interesting Story

A Christian friend by the nick 'Buddhist lover' has commented on one of Blogpastor's recent post. I think his comment is interesting to share here:

One guest preacher was preaching a sermon to encourage people to give in faith to his ministry. After teaching from the bible verse about one reaping what one sows, the guest preacher gave his personal testimony. He told the congregation about how when he was so financially broke during the financial crisis in the 970s that he was without a home and left only with about $20 in his pocket. He walked into a church service, and deep in his heart he prayed to God for help. When the offering bag was passed around, he put in all the money he had. On his way out, someone befriend him, learned of his problems and offered him shelter and also gave him a job. That became the beginning of a series of good fortune that within one year, he became financially stable and in another 3 years, he actually became rich! After sharing his testimony, he urged the congregation to give to his ministry so that God’s unlimited blessing of wealth can be released onto them. He said because he has given his last $20, God has turned him into a multi-millionaire. Then at that point, a soft voice of an old woman could be heard among the congregation: “I dare you do it again now!”

Do you think it is much more difficult for this guy to give away all his wealth now (millions of dollars in nett assets) than when he was without a home and was down to his last $20?

I've heard some similar testimonies. One that I remember vividly is that God has blessed the prosperity-gospel advocate 2 Harley Davidson bikes. I also wonder will these people re-enact their testimony which they are so keen to preach on the pulpit on a daily basis.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Painted Skin on Love


"You don't know what is love...", scorned Pei Rong against the fox-demon before drinking the poison in a pact that the demon will stop its killing spree.

This scene highlights the stark contrast between lust and love in the movie Painted Skin. On one end we disdain the demon's feverish means of implicating Pei Rong to all the charges which are on her; while on another end, we admire Pei Rong's self-sacrificial act to preserve the lives of her people by accepting the demon's implication onto herself.

Here, we are drawn to witness the embodiment of 'lust' in the form of the fox-demon, and the incarnation of 'love' through Pei Rong's decision. We are once again being bombarded by the uncomfortable fact of the difference between these two abstracts. Only in a more surreal way this time. 'Surreal' because it's not real. The 'real' is on the bloody cross.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ghost, Spirit and Christianity: An Asian Theological Exploration 2

An Asian Theological Exploration of the Non-Material-Non-Human-Beings (2)



Over a cup of coffee and cheesecake, Yoon, Steven, Joreen, and myself were having our after-dinner chat. I shared with them my colleague who is able to listen to the NMNHB. She can even see them too but not as clearly as her mother. Usually they appeared like shadows to her.

Coming from his own experience, Yoon, who is into voodoo and black (and white) magic, told us about his encounter with NMNHB.

Yoon and his family were on a vacation. One night, he and his cousins were on their way going up a hill at the vacation spot. It was midnight. He was sitting at the back passenger seats while his cousins were at the front. There were jungles at both sides of the narrow road. The place is secluded and the headlamps of the car are the only light available on the road. So you can imagine how dark the place is.

During the journey, having nothing to do, Yoon was looking out the window into the dark and silent jungle at his side of the car. It was then he saw a little girl dressed in white hoping in the woods alone.

We might think that Yoon was being deluded or his eyes were not functioning properly at that time, but let’s just assume that there is really such NMNHB for exploration sake.

Besides that experience, Yoon had other experience in the secondary school we attended together. But we didn’t talk about that because we already talked about it before. So Yoon shared about cases involved voodoo and black magic.

OK, again, we might think that Yoon has gone out of his mind. But let just assume that there are such things as black magic and shamanism where NMNHB are being summoned and manipulated for humans’ gain.

So how do we come to terms with these assumptions? What are the theological options concerning the NMNHB?

A group of Christians lumps all phenomena involving the NMNHB as demonic activities. Another group of Christians thinks that these are not only demonic activities but also the manifestations of the dead. That means they believed that when people died their souls roam around the world and hence being encountered by the living.

“…one who casts spells, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead…” Deuteronomy 18.9-14, v.11. Italic added.

“…Why have you disturbed me from bringing me up?…” 1 Samuel 28.3-25, v.15.

You can doubt whether are these two passages depicting the reality, but you cannot deny that the author(s) and readers of these literatures did actually thought that dead people do continue their after-death existence in non-material-non-human forms. This also points to the fact that interaction able to established between humans and the NMNHB.

“One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it…”
Job 1.6-12, v.6-7. Italics added.

The book of Job depicts Satan as roaming the world, bringing trouble and calamity along to keep people away from faith. Hence it is acceptable by most that the NMNHB cases are nothing less than Satan’s attempt to get people away from having faith.

“…Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.” Genesis 5.18-24, v. 24. Italic added.

“…Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.”…As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven…” 2 Kings 2.9-11. Italics added.

The ‘Transfiguration narrative’ recorded at Matthew 17.1-9, Mark 9.2-10, Luke 9.28-36 has Elijah and Moses came to Jesus in front of Peter, James, and John.

These passages suggest the existent of some who escaped death (Elijah, probably Enoch) and had themselves transformed to NMNHB without dying.

“…But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified…” Mark 6.49-50. Italic added.

It is interesting that Jesus’ disciples thought that the figure is a ghost. And the fact that they are terrified by such encounter is evident for the fear of the NMNHB is prevalent among the ancients.

From these narratives, we can derive some of the ancient perceptions of the NMNHB during the Biblical times:

1) Humans continue to exist after death in different form.

2) Satan roams the world to hinder people from God.

3) There are humans who are being transformed into NMNHB and are able to communicate with living humans.

4) Ghosts are human-like, abnormal (walk on water), and terrifying.

5) There are technology or methods (religious rituals) which allow human to interact with the NMNHB.

Next, I'll be posting some of the theological insights concerning these 5 observations that we have thought out.

Friday, October 10, 2008

James K. A. Smith on Pentecostalism

James K. A. Smith, a Reformed and a Pentecostal, wrote in a recent article on Pentecostalism:

Several aspects of the Pentecostal worldview are worth noting—beginning with the radical openness to God and, in particular, God doing something different or new. This engenders an emphasis on the continued, dynamic presence, activity, and ministry of the Spirit, including continuing revelation, prophecy, and the centrality of charismatic giftings in the ecclesial community. Included in this ministry of the Spirit is a distinctive belief in the healing of the body as a central aspect of the work of the Atonement. In contrast to rationalistic evangelical theology, Pentecostal theology is rooted in an affective epistemology. And contrary to common assumptions about the otherworldliness of Pentecostals, the movement is characterized by a central commitment to mission, with a strong sense that mission includes concern for social justice. Here, I think, Pentecostal theology is poised to make unique contributions to broader discussions. Indeed, the charismatic movement has already influenced liturgical renewal within the Catholic tradition.

Here, I think, is one of the most underappreciated elements of a Pentecostal worldview, for the move from the Spirit’s physical work to a new understanding of physicality offers possibilities for overcoming some of the most pernicious dualisms of modern times. Pentecostal worship involves the body: arms raised or outstretched, bodies prostrate on the floor or dancing in the aisles, the laying on of hands, bodies kneeling at the altar, banners waving, etc. (Cartesian “minds” could never engage in Pentecostal worship!) This is why some Pentecostal theologians such as Frank Macchia and Simon Chan have suggested that a Pentecostal worldview is a sacramental ­worldview. It emphasizes the goodness, necessity, and instrumentality of material elements: God’s Spirit is active through concrete and material phenomena. It is a gritty spirituality—one that affirms all the messiness and awkwardness of embodiment, because it is in and through such embodiment that God’s Spirit is at work.
(Italics original)

What do you think is the problem (not sure if that's a problem to you but it's surely to me) with such radical openness to God, in particular, God doing something different or new?

Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormon, was radically open to God and indeed he claimed that God did something new. God, through an angel, gave him a new written revelation ('new' in the sense that it is recently discovered, not newly written). Ahn Sahng Hong was radically open to God and indeed he also claimed that God did something new. In Ahn's case, he was being revealed that he is the new Christ.

Anything not so right with affective epistemology? Perhaps Smith meant it to be more substantial, but the term itself within that passage suggests that it is an epistemology grounded entirely on body-experience.

Some people feel that self-mutilation aid them in de-stressing themselves. Their knowledge of de-stressing is affected by their bodily-experience. So is Smith talking something like this? I'm sure he is not.

Smith further wrote:

Pentecostals have often accepted rejections of the world, but the core elements of a Pentecostal worldview aim toward an affirmation of the fundamental goodness of spheres of culture related to embodiment, such as the arts. This deserves much more attention than we can give it here. We might note, however, that it is precisely this aspect of Pentecostal spirituality that explains why Pentecostal spirituality is also often attended by a prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel—whether preached in Africa, Brazil, or suburban Dallas—is, we must recognize, a testament to the very worldliness of Pentecostal theology. It is one of the most un-Gnostic moments of Pentecostal spirituality, which refuses to spiritualize the promise that the gospel is “good news for the poor.” Granted, this means something different and far less admirable in the comfort of an air-conditioned megachurch in suburban Dallas than it does in famished refugee camps in Uganda. But, in both cases, the implicit theological intuition that informs Pentecostal renditions of the prosperity gospel is evidence of a core affirmation that God cares about our bellies and bodies.

Note the last sentence "the implicit theological intuition that informs Pentecostal renditions of the prosperity gospel is evidence of a core affirmation that God cares about our bellies and bodies."

I think prosperity gospel is not motivated from the affirmation of God's unwillingness to see us hungry. For that is not a particularly distinctiveness of that kind of corrupted gospel. Prosperity gospel is, I think, the manifestation of greed undercovered by fuzzy Christians.

I doubt the article is written by James K. A. Smith. Must be a pseudepigraphy. Probably Joel Osteen is the real author.

Slept like a lawyer



I slept like a lawyer yesterday. Through the night, I lied on one side and then lied on the other.


(Got this joke from a book at local bookstore. Forgot the title. Anyway, I find this particular joke applicable to my sleep. If you like it, here's another one: What's the difference between a terrorist and a lawyer??????? You can negotiate with the terrorist.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ghost, Spirit and Christianity: An Asian Theological Exploration (1)

An Asian Theological Exploration of the Non-Material-Non-Human-Beings (1)


My colleague just told me don't mess with 'spirits' before she walked to the pantry. She is one of the few that I know who are sensitive to the "non-material-non-human-being" (NMNHB). And she is the one who is directing the drama that I'm involved in.
I don't like to use 'ghost' or 'spirit' to depict the NMNHB. Reason is that we lack data to categorize these beings. Some take the term 'spirit' as the soul of the deceased. Some take it as the demons. Some take it as genie. Each of these definition comprises a bigger cultural and religious context to which is too much to blog about here. And the term 'supernatural' is as vague as the others. So, I'll stick to 'NMNHB'. It's only in the negative that I can describe them given my limited understanding. (If you have better term, pls suggest!)

This colleague of mine said that she is able to listen to the NMNHB. Her mother able to see them. My other friend, Yoon, has seen these beings a few times. My gf's cousin, when she was a toddler, asked her dad who was the shadowy figure in the mirror during one of their stay at an inn. As for myself, I heard very horrorly someone scratching the sofa handle which was above my head when I was trying to sleep at Awana Genting.

I had my interest in the NMNHB rejuvenated after a casual chat I had with my friends after church 6 or 7 Sundays ago. After that, I rented Exocism of Emily Rose DVD to find out more of this since the movie claims to be based on true story.

During my recent trip back to Penang, Steven, Yoon, and myself had a wonderful chat over this topic. And we explored the NMNHB phenomena theologically. I shall blog about it later because my drama practice starting in 10 minutes.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Pictures!

Thanks to Peter Pang for the picture. That was taken after attended his lecture on Trinity and Creation. In the lecture he focuses on the doctrine of Incarnation and doctrine of Creation. He explored the implication of our belief of the Incarnation affect our view of the Creation. His one passage that I appreciate deeply is, (paraphrase) "The Incarnation is the divine re-creation within the already existing creation. The new being created within the old."

Through the lecture, Iain Torrance made emphases on the goodness of the creation. So, later during Q&A, one fellow by the name of Robert Tan asked him, "If the creation is good, where then did evil came from?"

Torrance's reply,"Evil is the privation in this contingent world." Of course he did go on talking about it but I was stuck with the phrase playing in my mind. So the next day, during another lecture, I asked him to elaborate. And he graciously did, (paraphrase)

"God has created the world in which is not the case where everything is necessary. And if it is not the case that everything is not necessary, then sometimes things go wrong. Now what that is saying is that God is not the author, the creator, of evil. But Evil is a kind of lack, a privation, a consequence of the kind of freedom that God gave us..."

I still don't understand. Yet I understand that the phrase "everything is not necessary" is contentious to some. But Torrance has mentioned in the beginning of his lecture that he is arguing from the Reformed tradition. And according to Reformed tradition God created the world out of his absolute freedom and love. God does not need the Creation nor does he need to creates it. So if there is anything being created, it is purely out of God's absolute sovereignty and love.

(This is the lecture on Calvin's thought on the Sacrament. As you can see in this picture , I took the opportunity to say "hello" during the Q&A time. No, I'm not pathetic. I was asking for his comment on Roman Catholic's interpretation of John 6.53-56. He didn't answer my question directly. He gave a theological de tour before directing me to 2 articles for further learning. Oh, you see the chubby guy sitting in the background? That's Robert Tan.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

No problem with expensive church building


I don't have problem with $1 billion church building projects as long as the leadership and community of the church preaching and doing the Jesus' gospel.

So, no problem for New Creation Church to spend millions on concrete walls. Their damn-serious problem is their preaching and doing of the wrong gospel.

Buddha & Jesus Comic


Hikaru Nakamura, a Buddhist, has written a comic depicting the lives of Buddha and Jesus in our 21st century metropolitan. The title of the comic is 'Saint Oniisan' (Japanese: Saint Young Men). Read its review. The portrayed Jesus is just uninteresting and boring. But again, what can one expects from a Buddhist?

I went to a Buddhist Seminary's library once. Guess what? The only books that are about Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible are those with titles like 'Jesus in India', 'The Gnostic Gospel', etc. So it is not surprising if the Jesus in this comic is so pathetically mundane. Anyway, here's a bit of the review:

Saint Oniisan is slice-of-life, or shall I say divine-life, tale of Jesus and Buddha as they try to experience the modern world, in this case, Japan. The first volume gives us a great glimpse of their reintegration to society. You see Jesus and Buddha experiencing Asakusa, public baths, theme parks, and the internet. Throughout the volume, we get a little history of their divine greatness only to see their apparent insignificance in modern Japanese society. Suffice to say, before people can recognize that they’re actually Jesus and Buddha, people think of them as someone who looks like Johnny Depp or a guy with a button on his forehead.

But the idea of imagining Jesus to be living in a Metropolitan is interesting and insightful. Who would Jesus understands himself to be in such an environment? What problems would he see? What solution/vocation would he engage in? What would be his aims? Would he be killed? How would his immediate followers (assumed he has) think of him? Would he be resurrected?

Monday, October 06, 2008

You Think You Are Poor? You Think You Sould Spend $500 Million Building A 'Christian' Ghetto?

That Saturday morning (27 Sept 08), we were busy at the DAP Berapit community service centre distributing food. This effort is a relief that the new government opt to help the poor Malay in their celebration of the upcoming Hari Raya.

In the noon, before our lunch and while the New Creation Church is planning how to build their SGD $500 million church building cum cultural centre, I was following Steven and his colleagues to investigate a family that had applied for the government-aid. And this is an account of what I experienced.

There were Joreen, Steven, Steven’s colleague, an active social worker, and me, the ‘busy-body’. The house is located just at the back of a commercial park. In fact, it’s just at the other side of the alleyway of one of those stretches of shophouses.

The house is a ‘rumah setinggan’ (Malay: houses that are built illegally on common land). Before the entrance of the house, there is a wide drain separating it from the narrow alley of the highly commercialised centre of Bukit Mertajam town. Glancing at the house at one side and then the busy shophouses on the other, one gets the sense that the drain is not a mere duct for sewerage purposes. One is reminded of the terrifying and hollowing “chasm” spoken in the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16.19-31.

The only way to cross over the drain is through a rugged steep wooden bridge. The first step that I laid on the bridge was not a real step. I was merely tipping my toes, checking whether is the wood stable for one to walk on it; like someone tipping their toes on the water to see if it’s too cold to jump in.



For one who is not trained in carpentry, like myself, toe tipping is not exactly helpful in determining the rigidity of the wood. So I know that if I really want to cross over, I would need some other sources of energy, push, encouragement, or, one may say, temporal delusion to walk me over.

Seeing everyone having no problem going through the bridge is almost obligating. Hence, I brought myself over, having faith that if the bridge able to fetch the weight of Steven and others who are fatter than me, then I don’t see any problem I’ll break the bridge.

Upon entering the house, I was surprise to find that everyone took off their shoes and placed them at the door. I did the same out of conformance. Till now I still can’t see any difference if none of us took of our shoes.

A widow and her son occupy the house. When we went in, the widow revealed to us her tragic story. It appears that after her husband has passed away, there is no constant income being brought into the family. She worked as a traditional masseur previously but has stopped working due to sicknesses like diabetes, asthma, and frail arms.

Before long she wept in front of all of us, begging and crying for relief from her current condition. She also told us that she has asked the previous MCA’s State Assembly Man, Lau Chek Tuan, for help but he effortlessly gave her empty promises. He told her that he will send people to go to take a look at her place but none of his people appear.

It is only until recently, when her son sought help from Steven’s colleague, that the current state government took notice of her case. Since then her son’s education fee has been taken care of through an education loan. Meanwhile Steven and his colleagues are currently looking out for a few possible relief plans to present to the widow and her son for them to choose.

Joreen & Steven's report. They've uploaded many pictures of the rumah setinggan.