Monday, March 31, 2008

Peter Enns' Misfortune?

I was surprised to learn about Peter Enns' book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (USA: Baker Academic, 2005) some months ago. I was suprised because Peter Enns being a faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) could publish such book.

So I thought WTS has shifted its paradigm. Thus I didn't think much about it. Thought there is hope for the seminary to cultivate critical scholarship. But, disappointingly, I came across the news that Peter Enns will be suspended from the seminary just now:
"That for the good of the Seminary (Faculty Manual II.4.C.4) Professor Peter Enns be suspended at the close of this school year, that is May 23, 2008 (Constitution Article III, Section 15), and that the Institutional Personnel Committee (IPC) recommend the appropriate process for the Board to consider whether Professor Enns should be terminated from his employment at the Seminary."
I'm in total sympathy with WTS to want to preserve its theological position, but I can't help but mourn over the fact that the reputable seminary is still not ready to move on to critical biblical studies.

So, in the end, is the suspension a misfortune to Peter Enns or the seminary? To me, it's the latter.

This unfortunate affair reminds me of Robert Gundry who was being kicked out from Evangelical Theological Society for his commentary on Matthew's gospel in the 1980s.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Theodicy and God's Omnis

The problem of evil and theodicy have been on every thinking minds ever since humans interpreted revelation and developed abhorrence towards evil. Thus these matters are on my mind too.

I think the prevalence of this problem is very much due to the inappropriate terms that people attribute to God. What I means is this. Evil is only a problem if God is omnipotent, omniscient, and all-loving for eternity. Without any of these 3 attributes, evil will not be such a hindrance to many who think it is stupid to believe in God. Bart Erhman is one. But without these 3 attributes, many believers will be uncomfortable with God. Who wants to pledge allegiance to a God who is not almighty, not all-knowing, and not all-loving? I dont.

So, my suggestion is that such terms are out-dated and irrelevant and should be replaced with more robust terms.

My proposal is to replace those two omnis.

1) replace omnipotent to omniprudent
2) replace omniscient to omnisapient

From the Biblical Theology's point of view, these two terms are more adequate to attribute to YHWH. These terms dont carry all the baggages of classical theism (which is filled with Greek's thoughts), and at the same time are more grounded within the ancient Israelites' notion of God.

On the other hand, emphasizing that God being all-wise and all-prudent is more convincing to establish the theodicy aphorism: "God has his reasons for such things to happened".

Modern Resurrection

In conjunction with Easter, we have a modern resurrection! This one is not dead for 3 days, but for 4 months!

So is Zach Dunlap the 'Son of God'?

N.T Wright, G. Habermas, W. L. Craig, D. Allison, R. Swinburne and gangs will say 'NO!'. Unless Zach was talking in apocalyptic languages and parables, issuing verbal indulgences, and fighting over corrupted authorities, his resurrection is that of Lazarus' and not of Jesus. If not, we would have to summon an ecumenical council to formulate a 'Quadity'.

But this particular phenomenon does ridicule those..*ahem* Ludermann-Erhman-Avalos-Price *ahem*.. who insist that coming back from the dead is impossible.

Man declared dead feels 'pretty good'

Thursday, March 20, 2008

INFP's Career

Just did the Myer-Briggs personality test at facebook this morning. Again, I discovered that I'm still a INFP (Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceptive). So, i googled the careers that suit such creatures.

Careers for INFP Personality Types

INFPs generally have the following traits (those in brackets, including this one, are my add-ons):

* Strong value systems (Quite true. I always manage to stop myself from strangling the person who urged me, "don't think so much etc")

* Warmly interested in people (YES! Especially if you have long legs, slim waist, long hair, and look like Kelly Lin)

* Service-oriented, usually putting the needs of others above their own (No comments. My right hand cannot know what his left brother did)

* Loyal and devoted to people and causes (Loyal to Stephew Chow. Watch all his movie except the recent one, CJ7, because can't find the Cantonese version in Singapore. Devoted to Rowan Williams and the causes he is fighting for!)

* Future-oriented (Of course! It pronounces 'eschatology' in my language)

* Growth-oriented; always want to be growing in a positive direction (Who doesn't? My surname is not Nietzsche or Yoon)

* Creative and inspirational (No comment)

* Flexible and laid-back, unless a ruling principle is violated (Yup. I never stop buying books unless my debit card stops functioning)

* Sensitive and complex (No comment)

* Dislike dealing with details and routine work (Who does? We are not machines!)

* Original and individualistic - "out of the mainstream" (It's called 'heretic' in my language)

* Excellent written communication skills (Only memorize the fact that 's' always follow 'he', 'she', & 'it'. That got me a 'A1' in SPM)

* Prefer to work alone, and may have problems working on teams (Nope. I'm perfectly fine working in a team)

* Value deep and authentic relationships (Who doesn't?)

* Want to be seen and appreciated for who they are (No comment)

The INFP is a special, sensitive individual who needs a career which is more than a job. The INFP needs to feel that everything they do in their lives is in accordance with their strongly-felt value systems, and is moving them and/or others in a positive, growth-oriented direction. They are driven to do something meaningful and purposeful with their lives. The INFP will be happiest in careers which allow them to live their daily lives in accordance with their values, and which work towards the greater good of humanity. It's worth mentioning that nearly all of the truly great writers in the world have been INFPs.

The following list of professions is built on our impressions of careers which would be especially suitable for an INFP. It is meant to be a starting place, rather than an exhaustive list. There are no guarantees that any or all of the careers listed here would be appropriate for you, or that your best career match is among those listed.

Possible Career Paths for the INFP:

* Writers
* Counselors / Social Workers
* Teachers / Professors
* Psychologists
* Psychiatrists
* Musicians
* Clergy / Religious Workers (NO!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

No Negotiation

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6.35-36, TNIV

Impossible to do that not only in Jesus' time, but also in our time. But then...

But those who hear my words and do not put them into practice are like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.
Luke 6.49

So, it is not whether such tasks are possible, it is a commandment. And since it is a commandment, it is done for. No question asked. Why not? Because it was commanded by someone who claimed and proved himself to be the creator of heaven and earth. No negotiation.

In the sphere of salvation, the living out of faith, thought, and discipleship takes the form of a visible, tangible, practical, bodily mode of existence; a disposition, habit, and action. It is this, or it is nothing at all.
Anthony Thiselton, Hermeneutics of Doctrine, p.47 (emphasis his, coloured mine)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Visible = Credible

In the bodily obedience of the Christian, carried out as the service of God in the world of everyday, the lordship of Christ finds visible expression, and only when this visible expression takes personal shape in our lives does the whole thing become credible as Gospel message.

-Ernst Kasemann, On the Subject of Primitive Christian Apocalyptic (emphasis mine)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Whose Morality & Rationality?

X donated RM50 to charity. Y saw that and told X that doing charity is good but donating RM50 is too much.

But X actually feels that she had just did a little. In fact she feels guilty for not being able to donate more because she knows that later she will be spending money at the cinema.

To Y, X has done a good yet should-not-have-done thing. Yet X feels that what she has done isn't really 'good' since she is guilty for didn't do more, which she is capable of.

So, whose morality is right or better?

And interestingly, X is a Christian. She knows what is real 'charity' (agape). It is as epitomized by Jesus' self-sacrificial love.

Lost in Talent

Jacksaid: don't waste ur lang chai (talent) lah... go do theology... bizness not ur field... honestly as ur fren for so many years u have a very sharp mind for theology...

SooInn: we are wondering why are you wasting your time and talent... I would go all the way to fight for scholarship for you...

Nalika: it's very rare for someone to have such deep interest in theology... follow your passion... it's better to do something that you enjoy but live modestly, than doing something that you don't enjoy and live non-modestly...

...hearing these remarks from those who know me is like being slapped. Feel like they are slapping me with 'truth'. I can't help but to wonder again and again what the heck am I doing with my life... Does one really need to live according to one's talent and passion?

Such remarks tempted me to respond sarcastically like Will did in the movie Good Will Hunting, when Sean asked him what he wants to be:

Sean: So what do you really want to do?

Will: I wanna be a shepherd.

Sean: Really.

Will: I wanna move up to Nashua, get a nice little spread, get some sheep and tend to them.

Sean: Maybe you should go do that.

But, of course, I do not respond with sarcasm when I know my friends are meaning well for me, just as Will doesn't respond like that when Chuckie said, "Look, you're my best friend, so don't take this the wrong way. In twenty years, if you're still livin' here, comin' over to my house to watch the Patriots games, still workin' construction, I'll fuckin' kill you. That's not a threat. Now, that's a fact. I'll fuckin' kill you."

Thiselton on 'Jesus is Lord'

'Jesus is Lord' is no mere 'floating' fragment of descriptive statement or abstract proposition, but is a spoken act of personal devotion and commitment which is part and parcel of Christ-centred worship and life-style...

Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinth, p.926

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Quest For The Historical Israel

No local bookshops sell this book yet, but Hao is kind enough to helped purchase a copy for me when he was in the USA during CNY. I've been eyeing for this book since I got to know about it nearing the end of last year. It's a collection of essays written by 2 archaeologists, namely Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar, and edited by Brian Schmidt on the historical Israel.

As the subtitles indicate, the book is a debate on archaeology and the history of early Israel yet the authors only start to debate at Part 4 'The Tenth Century:The New Litmus Test For The Bible's Historical Relevanve'. There are 6 parts in total. The first 3 parts are agreements between both archaeologists on the archaeological relevance of the OT (Hebrew Bible), the historicity of the OT's materials, and the relation between the OT and archaeology.

Both authors identify themselves as 'Centrist', dubbed 'The View From The Center' as contrast between the Maximalist and the Minimalist/Revisionist. Basically their position is to take archaeology as the 'real-time witness' (p.16, 19) for or against the historicity of the OT. Thus if they are told that Malaysia has a lot of monkeys in its ruling party, they will not take that at face value. They will see if there are 'archaeological' evidents (i.e recordings of parliamentary disputes at Youtube) to either substantiate or repudiate this claim.

Both of them agree that the stories about Abraham, Moses, Joshua etc may have historical value in spite of 'the distortions, exaggeration, theological disposition, and literary creativity' (p.31). Of course that is the politically-correct way to put it. It could be quite blatant if they say that those stories do not have historical value because current archaeological data has refute them.

That's their agreement. They part ways when it comes to discussing the dynasty of David and Solomon. Finkelstein dates the monarchy to the ninth century while Mazar dates it to the tenth century. Both dates according to archaeological data yet both falls on different century. But actually, both are just arguing over semantics. They differ due to Mazar's usage of his 'Modified Conventional Chronology' (p.121) that drags a particular era within the Iron Age. Besides that, Mazar argues that Solomon could have built his temple and palace during the tenth century based on close similarities of such structure found at Zinjirli and other Syrian cities (p.129). Thus, a conservative believing reader would find Mazar to be less hostile than Finkelstein.

There are other real disputes revolving the interpretation of archaeological findings in their essays which show the detailed knowledge of both scholars in this field. Yet the book leaves the reader puzzle over their attempts to clarify the fact that archaeology should not be influenced by and threaten current political, social, and theological identity. Their findings, if accepted, no doubt will affects some conservative believers but they made a good point that whether or not the data found in the OT are historically true is peripheral concerning our current situation and where we are heading towards. Like it or not, we have to accept that the OT is inseparable from the western (in our case, post-colonial) cultures. It is our precious heritage and should remain to be that. And that is said within the fact that archaeology is still an on-going project. Who knows, it might vindicate the conservative's stance one day.

The Christ Files

Soon to be launched DVD, The Christ Files, on the reliability of the gospels and the historicity of Jesus hosted by John Dickson. Featured impressive list of scholars:

Professor Richard Bauckham of St Andrew’s University, Scotland on the Gospels and Eyewitness Testimony

Professor Marcus Bockmuehl of St Andrew’s University, Scotland on Gnosticism and the Gnostic Gospels

Professor James Charlesworth of Princeton University, USA on the Dead Sea Scrolls and Jesus

Professor James Dunn of Durham University, England on how ancient societies preserved traditions aurally

Professor Sean Freyne of Trinity College, Dublin on the Archaeology of Galilee (filmed on location in Israel)

Professor Martin Hengel of the University of Tubingen, Germany on the historical value of the Gospels

Professor Alanna Nobbs of Macquarie University, Australia on the Greco-Roman sources for studying Jesus

Dr. Adolfo Roitman of Shrine of the Book, Israel on the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Professor Peter Stuhlmacher of University of Tubingen, Germany on the Apostle Paul and the value of his letters for the study of the historical Jesus

Professor Christopher Tuckett of Oxford University, England on the source behind the Gospels, such as ‘Q’

Right Reverend Dr. Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, England on the importance of the Old Testament for understanding the historical Jesus

With such listing, I'm can't help but to beseech if any one is going to or anyone coming from Australia to Singapore soon? Need you to get me a copy.

Jesus Is Not God

Christoher Hitchens can't do it...neither can Bertrand Russell...nor Sam Harris... None of them successfully prove that Jesus is not God. But this one can... And he uses hermeneutics! *gulp*

Today is SUNDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Today is Sunday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! woooooooooooooooooooo hoooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!

MALAYSIA'S ruling party faced its biggest electoral debacle on Sunday, as the opposition won five of 13 states, putting a dark cloud on the prime minister's political future.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's multi-racial National Front coalition managed to win just a simple majority in parliament and will form the government at the federal level.

But it lost a crucial two-thirds parliamentary majority it has held for most of its 50-year-long rule, the election body said. That level is needed to change the constitution.
- The Straits Times

‘We’ve lost, we’ve lost’. These were the only words which Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi could muster when quizzed on the ruling coalition’s shocking defeat in five states.

It was a day of shocks for Barisan Nasional as some of its big guns tumbled in the general election.
Though it had managed to secure a simple majority in parliament, the loose opposition alliance of the DAP, Pas and PKR managed to take control of Penang, Kedah, Selangor, Perak and retained Kelantan comfortably.
- The New Straits Time

Question: Is traveling 10 hours, all the way from Singapore, to vote a right thing?

Answer: It's not only right, it is a GOOD thing!

I'm soooooooo blurdy democratically happy :)
*doing Hugh Grant's 'hip pop' dance move now*

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Quote on Inerrantist

By Jacksaid, a pseudo-inerrantist:

The inerrantists don't care about the Bible. It is the non-inerrantists that probe into the Bible.

Friday, March 07, 2008

DAP-PKR Ceramah

Ceramah (speech) Session at Han Chiang, Penang, yesterday. Attendance about 30,000 to 60,000 people!! WE ARE FED UP WITH THE RULING GOVERNMENT!!!!

Today's Friday, Tomorrow's Saturday, & SUNDAY is Coming!

"When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
when the wicked rule, the people groan."
- Proverbs 29.2

"...Jesus standing in between cynical Pilate and colluding religion, Jesus goes to the cross."
- N.T Wright, Seattle Pacific University's 2005 Lecture

I've just arrived home this morning for tomorrow. Not a mere 'tomorrow' as in a particular event which is taking place tomorrow, namely the national election. But for the 'tomorrow' which Jesus saw, which His disciples experienced, which Malaysia desperately need and deprived of.

"Friday, Friday...evil's everywhere, poverty pervades the world...there's despair...but that's because it's Friday...and Sunday is coming!"
- Tony Campolo

Monday, March 03, 2008

Encounter With Yasmin

For some vague reasons, I thought Yasmin is a man. It probably started by my having a male ex-schoolmate name Jasmin, and the fact that Disney’s Aladdin has a princess character by the same name. So I derived that the name is applicable to both genders. But still, these premises do not warrant my expectation that Yasmin Ahmad is a woman.

Hence, I think that there is another possible factor that influenced my expectation. It is my previous perception that the film industry is either filled up only by male directors or only male directors make good movies. And obviously I am proven wrong.

After watching her movie Gubra and listening to her about her inspiration, experiences, and challenges in filmmaking, I conclude that Yasmin Ahmad is intelligent, self-aware, humorous, out-going, and articulate. In fact I think she is one of the few publicly known Malaysian woman that is smart and attractive. Perhaps I am attracted to her smartness, thus the ‘attractive’.

She won many international awards in the industry for her works. Many countries in the east and west recognize her talents and works. But ironically, it is her own country that does not celebrate her gifts. The authorities in Malaysia criticize her works as being insensitive and controversial.

During the dialogue session, she was accommodating and approachable. She is not hesitant to share her experience, techniques, and inspiration with us. For eg. there is a scene in Gubra where the main character Orked found out about her husband’s extramarital affair. Her husband tries to convince Orked from leaving by telling her that his affair partner is just a ‘piece of meat’, ‘stupid’, ‘nothing’ to him. Orked counter-proposed that she will stay only if her husband says these exact discriminatory remarks to the woman in front of her. Apparently that is Yasmin’s personal bitter experience. She is very frank, courageous, and open to admit that she is not ‘angelic’, and, to her, no one is. Hence, the inclusion of such bitterness and negative elements in her works make the movies ‘real’.

Other times she told us that she loves to include good/happy possibilities in her movies. I find that there are many positive inter-racial relationships in her works. In Gubra, one notices the harmonious relations between people from different ethnicity.

Yasmin believes that despite that no one is angelic, yet every human has something good and common. And she aspires to bring out this commonality to the screen, trying to prevent human from “throwing bombs on one another lesser”. And I think that’s the most unique distinction in her works, although I’m aware of the disagreeable social and religious implications embedded in her works.

When asked how long does she takes to write a script, she replied that she takes about 5 to 7 days. And she doesn’t spend much time to think too much about her script because the more she thinks, the more difficult the script will be. Such existential persona was made most obvious when she interestingly said that movies are made from the heart, not the brain.

The dialogue lasted for about an hour. Peter asked her for a photo shot after that. Yasmin was not hesitant at all. In fact she enjoys taking photos so much so that she wittily call herself a ‘photo whore’.

Since young, my ambition is to be a filmmaker but the odds of being a successful filmmaker in Malaysia is just insignificant. Yet meeting Yasmin re-opens, enriches, and enlarges my imagination. If ever I became a successful filmmaker one day, I’ll name her as my inspiration.