Friday, February 29, 2008

Hermeneutics Quiz

While waiting for my colleague to hand me a document, I did Scot McKnight's Hermeneutics Quiz. My score is 74. The result says that I'm a 'progressive' among the other 2 groups: 'Conservative' and 'Moderate'.

"...the progressive tends to see the Bible as historically shaped and culturally conditioned, and yet most still consider it the Word of God for today. Following a progressive hermeneutic, for the Word to speak in our day, one must interpret what the Bible said in its day and discern its pattern for revelation in order to apply it to our world. The strength, as with the moderate but even more so, is the challenge to examine what the Bible said in its day, and this means the progressives tend to be historians..."

I do identify my hermeneutics as that. Yet McKnight is right to point out the problems of such take, "are predictable: Will the Bible's so-called "plain meaning" be given its due and authoritative force to challenge our world? Or will the Bible be swallowed by a quest to find modern analogies that sometimes minimize what the text clearly says?"

Go and take it. See which camp do you belong in. Then we can argue later :)

To Buy Or Not To Buy?

Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom,
when they are not able to understand it?

Buy the truth and do not sell it—
wisdom, instruction and insight as well.
Prov. 23.23

When I read these 2 passages in TNIV, the first says to me that I'm wasting money buying books, because I dont understand or have the time to read most of them. Yet the second passage pushes me to keep buying and buying. So, how????

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sleep Deep

It’s so refreshing to start the day. Probably because I find myself able to articulate and express myself better. It’s the result of journaling. Scribbling down one’s existential endeavour helps one to recollect and consolidate one’s thoughts and emotions of the day. Having heard Soo Inn in his seminars on Wednesday and Thursday, and having watched Gubra and listened to its director Yasmin Ahmad talk about her inspiration, experiences, and challenges in filmmaking pushed me to keep a journal.

I had deep sleeps in the past two nights. I lost touch with such luxuries for a while. Although the duration are only 4-6 hours, but still they are marvellous. The feeling of waking up without remembering you were sleeping is very relieving and addictive.

My most vivid memories of frequent deep sleeps are the mornings when I was in primary school. At 6am each morning, my mom will wake me up for school. And each time when she did that, very often I find myself waking up without remembering that I fell asleep in the night before. It is as though in a blink the morning came. Has the time stopped when my consciousness rested? I certainly felt so.

Each morning, I woke up without the memory of all the previous moments before the wake. It is a new birth. But such bliss last only in split second. Usually, the immediate moment after I’m awake, my consciousness starts recollecting memories. It’s like computers. The immediate moment right after a computer is being switched on, it recollects back the format that it previously had before it was switched off. Such recollection happens every morning during that early period of my life.

That is, in those days, every morning I woke up recollecting memories. This is now my memory of me recollecting memories.

The recent Friday’s deep sleep is odd. I know from experiences that I don’t sleep well if I take alcoholic drinks before sleeping. And that night, I consumed a few hundreds millilitre of champagne and vodka. Though only 4 hours of slumber, nonetheless I felt refreshed when I woke up. Though as odd as it is to me, I learn a new formula from that.

Hundreds of millilitre of champagne and vodka + sleep at 6am = deep sleep

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why Can't Both?

I'll be going back to Singapore tomorrow.

I have been enjoying myself tremendously in the past few days. Feel can't really let go such pleasures. There are pleasures in Singapore too but somehow it is different. Some people that I met in this past week actually think that being overseas is *better*, but I think that is rather too simplistic.

I don't hate Malaysia. I hate the current government. I love the place where I grew up in. The people here are very different. I feel very comfortable and blend in very well even if I met them for the first time.

On the other hand, I admire Singapore's government. They might not turned out to be the best around, but if placed Singapore and Malaysia together, I don't see current Malaysia's rulers any better than their neighbors. Sure, both have things to learn from one another given the similarities that we share, but in that case, Malaysia's government will be the one most benefited.

Not that I don't feel comfortable with Singaporeans. I work with them, live with them, hang out with them, and enjoying very much doing everything with them. It is just that there is this lack of cultural affinity. It is my problem, I guess. Or perhaps, it is not really the differences between citizens but, rather, individuals. And hence, it is not really a matter of people in specific places, but individuals that I have met. Or am I being pretentious? I don't know but I do feel pathetic to even contemplate these issues. There are people who knows what they want and set their lives towards it. And my person is not that sort. I am more reserved to options. And, I think, that is THE problem.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Judge A Person By The Skin?

The 2nd day of Chinese New Year coincides with Jorin's birthday this year. Steven, being a good-bf-wanna-be, threw a surprise bash at Segafredo, Autocity for Jorin. I arrived late, at about 11pm, and was surprised that there were dozens of people at the tables. Met new friends and caught up with old ones.

One worth mentioning happening is the conversation between Steven and Junior, a new friend. Junior asked Steven what does he do for leisure. Steven said he reads. And Junior laughed hysterically as if it is incredible. And when Junior asked further what does Steven read, I can see that Steven was struggling hard to articulate in commoner's term for 'philosophical hermeneutics' and 'the quest for the historical Jesus'. And this is where I jumped in. I interrupted, answering on behalf of Steven, "history".

Steven nodded, "Yes, I read history". His answer tickled and add to Junior's laughter. I was really puzzled at Junior's response. After Junior had calm down, I asked him why is he laughing. And he replied that Steven doesn't look like someone who read. Curiously, I probed him further, why is that so? He said that the way Steven talks, his delights in appreciating and complimenting creaturely beauty, his appetite for red wines, and his frequent visits to places with musics and alcohol don't make him as someone who reads. I got more curious. And this time I am the one that felt a bit incredible why such disposition doesn't go along with the interest of reading. I'm puzzled even till now.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Tokens of Trust

If you ask me to name the best living contemporary theologian among those that I know and read, I will not hesitate to say that Rowan D. Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, tops the list. Not that I have read all his works and compare him with the other great theologians like W. Pannenberg, J. Moltmann, A. McGrath, and the likes. But he sure has the ability to translate concrete theological discourses into lay-man's term. And not only due to that that I regard him as the best but also his ability and struggle to shoulder the ecclesiastical responsibility, which was laid on him, as true to his theology. No doubt we have many great theologians, but few able to express their theology as wide, as relevant, as publicly noticeable, and as influential as Williams. The most recent example is his latest popular level book Tokens of Trust.

In the book, Williams expounds contemporary issues by illuminating the Apostles' Creed. He wisely navigates through the controversial theological topics without failing to address the main challenges faced by Christian communities today.

He unpacked the deep-seated suspicion attitude that is prevalent among modern people at the beginning of the book. Then he addresses the identity of God, the relation between God's action and the created world which leads to the discussion of miracles, and the sufferings and evils which are one of main objection modern people has against the idea of a good and loving God. He then leads the readers to the discovery of the identity of Jesus within the wider surrounding of his historical context. And the last part is also, I think, the most elaborated part and has the most immediate relevance in the book for the church. Williams shares his theology of the church through concrete examples and fueled with his own experiences as a major ecclesiastical member of his tradition. Through and through, Williams explains the significant of 'trust' in a human-God relationship on one hand, and the trustworthiness of God on the other.

Another worth mentioning feature of the book is the inclusion of paintings and pictures that help to illustrate his points and help the readers to meditate on these issues. The layout of this post is the fruit that I learned from the book. Each pictures illustrate my points :) So much more than a mere apologetic book, it really lives up to its sub-titles as an "introduction to Christian belief" with all the much popularized confusions on this matter in the current world. To those who are more theologically-inclined, I think it is not an over-statement to say that this book is a popular-leveled exposition of the doctrines of Christianity. An excellent book for those who are interested to learn about Christianity, and clear the airway of those who are suffocating academically.

Friday, February 01, 2008

N.P. Lemche on Historical Sources

Niels Peter Lemche on the Historical Sources of the Ancient Israelite in ‘The Israelites in History and Tradition

Lemche follows Leopold Von Ranke’s historiography that carries out the historical investigation based solely on contemporary sources. He does not depend on paraphrases from later sources, and he attempt to study the history objectively and without bias while recognizing the weakness of Von Ranke in utility of the histories of great men and women (p.5-6). To prevent himself from repeating von Ranke’s mistake and from being the victim of ‘winner writes history’ scheme, he employs a sociological approach by investigating the social dynamics involved in the development of the ancient Israelites.

He sees contemporary sources as all kind of information that can be dated without problems to the period which it is taken to be firsthand information (p.22). However, his commitment to contemporary data does not automatically devoid the OT of historical information. Lemche acknowledges the possibility that a later source is more reliable than a contemporary one, and the possibility that contemporary source does not necessarily carries reliable historical data. Therefore he differentiates the historicity and the primary and secondary status of a text (p.24-25).

Although he acknowledges the possibility that a later source to contain historical information, he applies a severe judgment on the source which he considers necessary due to the fact that there is no example of any ancient writings to present a “systematically correct picture of the past”, and the presumption that it is unlikely for them to have the capability for doing so (p.26-27). I think it would be very helpful if Lemche can clarify 2 points: (1) what does he mean by “systematically correct picture”? (2) Does he go the extra mile to consider a picture as “correct” even when such picture includes some not-so-natural elements in the picture (eg. resurrection of the dead)?

Lemche is absolutely right to caution against the tendency and principle to accept the biblical text as historical sources and information in advance (p.29). A threatening principle, in my view, that is prevalent among believers, which in some quarters numbing down the intellectual potency of many. Nevertheless such position does not preclude that the biblical text can never be a reliable historical sources, a notion which is not least a tendency that can be developed into a principle as well. Therefore a caution upon caution should be in view. It can be and is the case that one’s high view on the historical reliability on the biblical text is not due to an a priori, but an a posteri.

Perhaps, a milder agnostic stance, as contrast to Lemche’s necessity for severe criteria, on the historicity of later sources should be taken on this subject. But then again, such cautious agnosticism should not and, I will further argue, cannot pervade one’s inclination for a higher degree of historical recognition/acknowledgment of later sources. In other words, Lemche's bias for contemporary artifacts must not blur the reliability of later sources unless there found disrupting factors affecting the latter artifacts. Disrupting factors such as overwhelming evidents of contemporary sources which contrast later sources. If not, then the reliability of the later sources should not be ruled out a priori. And the absence or lack of contemporary sources is definitely not a disrupting factor.

Going back to the question whether does Lemche consider a picture which contains not-so-natural element as “correct”. If his answer is “no”, then the adjectival “systematically correct” is just a slight lesser severe criterion and much constricted perception; and in the end, not as ideal and open as it can be or claimed to be.

My other review on Lemche's book: here