Monday, June 30, 2008

Conversion Is Trendy?

Dominic Foo registered for confirmation class with an Anglican Cathedral, Sherman Kuek received into the Roman Catholic, and Ben Myers blogged on the trend on converting to high churches yesterday.

Some people are, perhaps, expecting my joining the Eastern Orthodox church. I have given some thoughts about it but still lacks the boost for it. Residing in my current Scottish church is satisfactory at present.

How about you?? Converting to somewhere?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Think Further on Matt 12.24-37

Updated on 30 July 2008: Previously I wrote Matt 11.24-37, but was then rectified to Matt 12.24-37. Thanks to Kar Yong and Alex Tang for pointing out.

Earlier today, I posted some rumbles about the starling passage. After further thoughts on it, and being influenced by Hegel's dialectic, I postulate that the author of Matthew was explicitly responding to St. Paul's idea of justification.

St. Paul wrote his epistles, especially Galatians and Romans, between 49-64 A.D. In both epistles, he expounded his understanding of salvation and the relation between the converted Jews and the converted Gentiles. And if the gospel of Matthew was written between 65-90 A.D, and if the gospel had the Jews as the intended immediate readers in mind, then the author could be addressing some post-Paul issues among the Christian Jewish community.

And if that is true, then the portion in Matt 12.24-37 will be Matthew's direct response to St. Paul's theology of justification. And with the reference to Matt 12.24 ("Pharisees"), the author probably primarily had St. Paul in mind.







V.S

Kenneth Humphreys' Fairy Tales

I listened to the debate between Gary Habermas and Kenneth Humphreys on the Resurrection of Jesus. You may download the 6-part debate at Habermas' website. You can watch it at http://www.atheistdebate.org

In the debate, Humphreys equates the gospel narrative to fairy tales like Snow White. This betrays the fact that he did not read Richard Bauckham! Add to that Humphreys, contended with much skepticism, rhetorically asked, "how do we know that what were written by the gospel writers are historical?" This betrays the fact that he does not know how historical information are being retrieved and retrievable!

During the Q&A, Humphreys was asked for his opinion on the reason for the birth of Christianity if the resurrection is not a historical event. He said that Christianity was born out from the desperate situation facing the Jews in the 1st century. And obviously, on this point, he slapped his own blur-dy face! One would then ask how does he know that the Jews were in a desperate situation without the assuming that historical information is retrievable from historical writings unless other evidents show otherwise?

Overall, the debate is boring. Both sides were basically trying to justify their own sources. Habermas used his 'minimalistic approach' that uses historical-critical data in the guild (he quoted J.Crossan, R.Carrier, B.Erhman, J.Dunn, G.Vermes, P.Lapide etc) as his starting point, and proceed to argue for the resurrection from there.

Humphreys relied heavily on Robert Price's higher criticism to argue for a skeptical view of the gospel account. And Price's higher criticism is really a sort of form criticism. And Bauckham, Dunn, and others have convincingly overthrew this nonsense.

So, the more I listened to Humphreys, the more I was reminded of Black Eye Peas' hit song:

What you gon' do with all that junk?
All that junk inside your trunk?
I'ma get, get, get, get, you drunk,
Get you love drunk off my Hump.
My Hump, my Hump, my Hump, my Hump, my Hump,
My Hump, my Hump, my Hump, my lovely little lumps

Orthodox Study Bible


I saw this at Borders yesterday. It's "... first-of-its-kind study Bible, the Bible is presented with commentary from the ancient Christian perspective that speaks to those Christians who seek a deeper experience of the roots of their faith." The subtitle is (if you can't see from the picture above): Ancient Christianity Speaks To Today's World.

That means a Study Bible which based its OT texts (includes the Deuterocanonical books) on the Septuagint (the OT versions which most of the NT authors used), and expound by Eastern Orthodox theology!

Orgasmic excitement initially, until I read that the English NT version used in the Study Bible is the NKJV. That's the worst anti-climax for the first half of this year.

Anyway, this Study Bible is produced by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. More information about the people and history of the project can be found at the LXX.org.



So, I have to stay contented with my HarperCollin's Study Bible - Student Edition, which also contains the Deuterocanonical books.

2 Puzzles on Matthew

Today, in my reading of Matthew's gospel, I came across a couple of puzzling questions:

1) Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matt 11.11, ESV)

Does that mean John the Baptist is not in the kingdom of heaven?

2) ...For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matt 12.34-37, ESV)

I can imagine the following:

John Poper: You are justified by faith alone.

Donald Corson: You are justified by faith alone.

Tim Koller: You are justified by faith alone.

R.C Spruul: You are justified by faith alone.

Stephen Teng: You are justified by faith alone.

Jesus Christ: ...by your words you will be justified...

What's happening here?

Comment:
Wow lau eh... "we need to read the Bible only"... what NONSENSE!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Asian What?

Recently I witness a surging interest among Asian professional theologian-bloggers to come up with a distinctive 'Asian' theology. It started with Tony Siew's post.

His post is being highlighted by Kar Yong and responded by Alex Tang. And Tony has responded further.

Initially when I read Tony and Kar Yong, I didn't feel much excitement about producing a distinctly Asian theology. That's until Kar Yong blogged on the publication of Christian Theology in Asia. But not the publication that provoked me, but Kar Yong's allusion to Alex Tang's brainstorming post that takes on Tony's proposal seriously.

Alex's post is challenging. He questions the feasibility of the project. I like his questionings. And his questioning provokes me to give deeper thoughts on this project.

Although I am not a theologian yet the discussion among these theologians got me excited! So, I'll amateurishly throw some ideas around here.


What Is Asian Theology?

I noticed that the main difficulty to construct a distinctly Asian Theology is in the characterization of the adjective 'Asian'. That means we have to ask the question what do we mean by Asian?

Obviously, those who are born and bred in Asia! And since the function of theology is always to serve the believing communities, then an Asian Theology is the theology that is born and bred for Asia!

That means we have to realized that an Asian Theology is first of all is NOT distinctively recognized by the exercise of exegesis on Biblical text. This exercise is the groundwork required in all construction of theology, thus this will not characterize or provide the character for any theology.

Secondly, for a theology to serves a particular community, it must recognize and be familiar with the issues faced by the community which it intends to serve. That means in the construction of an Asian Theology, the theologians have to bear in mind the questions and problems faced by Asians. Nevermind the impact of globalization or post-colonialism unless you are constructing a historical Asian thelogy. What matters is the effectiveness of the theology to respond to the condition and situation engaging Asians now. For eg. the long working hours which is prevalent among Asians; or the unexamined and uncritical admiration, and hence the importation, of some Western practices; or the exploitation of Asian natural resources and manpower (legally and illegally) by the other Western continents.

We have to recognize that no theology is without chronological or geographical context. Western theologies were first constructed to respond to Westerners' problems. When these problems spilled over to the rest of the world, their theologies inevitably followed. That's why we find so many Western theologies applicable to us; because we are facing some of the same issues they faced and still facing.

Hence when we construct an Asian Theology, we should not try to extend its application to the rest of the world, but instead, we should concentrate its usefulness to our own issues. So whether Obama will be the next president of USA is not our main concern. In fact, we shouldn't concern so much over it. What we concern is whether Thailand's PM able to solve the problem faced by Thais; How should Christian respond in current political uncertainty in Malaysia; The food crisis faced by ASEAN; The image of Christianity as a 'Western religion'; The misperceived association of Christianity with Western imperialism in our current times; etc.

A theology is characterized by the questions it attempts to answer. When we say "Rowan Williams' theology", we are actually referring to the theological response formulated by Rowan Williams for the questions he faces. Hence, I contend that an Asian Theology is referring to the formulated theological response that engages the questions facing Asians. Therefore the more explicit a particular theology in tackling and expounding the problems distinctively dominating Asian, the more Asian the theology is.

Don't Lost Heart, Don't Limit Your Imagination

Dear Readers of my life,

Just want to encourage you not to lose heart and don't let the mundane routines bog you down. Realities might remove colors from your life at the moment, but bear in mind that Aurora is also part of reality. So, don't let the terrestrial limits your imagination. A good week ahead.


The picture here is to inspire you :)

Blessings,
Sze Zeng

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Watched Sex And The City!


I watched it last Friday at 12.25 midnight with Jade, Zhen Hao, and Tammy. The movie is about 2 hrs 30 mins (very looooooooooong).

It's a good movie. Every urbanized cosmopolitantians should watch it. If you do, you will discover much affinities with your living-hood. The movie chronicles 4 individuals' search for 2 L: (1) Labels (Gucci, Christian Dior, etc) and (2) Love.

The social and relationship problems portrayed in the movie are very real. Perhaps, you faced or facing one of them right now. There is the pressure faced by a middle aged man, Mr. Big, who had divorced twice, when he was contemplating to give marriage a third shot. There is a wealthy 50 year-old botox-addict who couldn't resist herself from men. There is a stressed-up lawyer who juggles with her demanding schedule and family life. And there is also a successful middle-aged author who are on an ever-ending search for love.

Despite all these problems, there are faithful friends around. And this makes the movie watchable. The story shows us how friendship and other relationships can have disagreement yet there is always forgiveness. It helps us to see that our role as friends is indeed important to those around us. We have to always learn how to encourage and lift one another up. It shows us that we still need friends and need to befriend even when we've settled with a family, riding on a successful career, or owning some Marc Jacob or Vivienne Westwood's dresses.

I stayed awake throughout the whole *midnight* show, so it is not that bad. But if you plan to watch it, make sure you are not offended by nude and sex scenes. There are not few of those in the movie.

Community That We Are In

Yesterday morning, we were learning about ‘community’ in our Bible Study session. We went to The Cathay building to have that session rather than in the church because we don’t have enough room.


The place was not very conducive but still better than others that we've tried.

There were 8 of us, including Dominic Yeo (our co-leader) and myself. First we talked about our notion of ‘community’. I asked all of us to describe one community that we take part in.

After going one around with everyone sharing about the communities that they are participating, I asked them how does a church community should be like, and what do each of us expect from this community?

We shared that we expect ‘spiritual growth’ (when I heard this term mentioned by Johanna, I thought to myself, “…mmm… loaded term…”), help and care from one another, and sharing the same identity, among many others.

Then we looked at the listed 4 characteristics of a community in our Bible Study material: (1) Unity, (2) Witness, (3) Selflessness, and (4) Generosity.

I threw these 4 questions on the table in 4 rounds. Each round for one term. And everyone is encouraged to provide his/her own understanding of this term in a Christian-community context.

All of them provided good understanding of the term but I’ll just note some of those here.

Cheryl pointed out that ‘Unity’ doesn’t mean that everyone should be closely bonded together. I was glad to agree with her and acknowledged the importance of her point. Many of us have the wrong notion that in a Christian community, we should be open to everyone.

Each one of us is created differently and relate differently with different people. Hence within the Ecclesia, we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be open to all, but only to those whom we are comfortable with. Then I brought Cheryl’s point further to say that, in view of this, we as a church are being bind together not by our ‘openness to everyone within the community’, but by our individual contribution to the community’s shared vision and aspiration.

On ‘Witness’, Johanna said that in a Christian community, we have to be a testimony within the group. She is right. That said, I suggested to the group that we have to be aware of the temptation of ‘holier than you’ attitude. Being a ‘witness’ doesn’t mean that we can condemn or put our standard on those who we think have gone astray. Instead we should “bring healing and wholeness by being alongside them” (Rowan Williams). We should not approach them as an outsider who is studying a case but as someone who actually walk side by side with the person, bringing hope in the midst of hopelessness.

On ‘Selflessness’, Benedict and Meiryl, who are currently serving in the youth committee told us about some of the things that they do. They and the rest who are serving the community are encouraged for all the “sai kang” (in Hokkien, it literally means ‘shit jobs’. To them, it means all kind of ‘behind-the-scene’ preparation) that they are doing. I affirmed their selfless services and point out that all their work in all subtleties are reflection of selfless contribution to the community.

After that the discussing the 4 terms, we tackled the question on their opinion of our youth community in the church. From our discussion, one point which most of us share is that the younger youths are not really passionate about this community.

I asked them why. Some suggested that that is because they are 2nd generation Christians. Some actually confessed that they are not active in guiding the younger youths. They realized that they didn’t do the same to the younger ones as how the older youths had been helping them.

It’s quite surprising to me that they brought this up and see their implication with the youth congregation.

So, taking their opinion seriously, I told them that here is where the ‘Unity’ of the community comes to play. We talked about being united in our individual selfless contribution to the community of a shared vision, and this is one place where it is necessary to remind ourselves of what is it to be united in the Ecclesia.

Not only that, I reminded them that their individual contribution is not only to help the younger youths but also the older youths as well. As in a Christian community, the top and the bottom are supposed to be encouraging one another. The top needs the bottom just as the bottom needs the top.

Then we went on to explore why the younger ones are not as passionate? I also asked them a related question, “Why do you come to church this morning where there are so many other places to go?”

To explore these questions, I had to ask them another question, “Whose image are we made from?”

As I expected, they gave me the ‘duh’ look before answering, “image of God”.

Then I asked them further, while acknowledging that that is a ‘duh’ question, what is the image of God? There they went silent.

“From the fact that a human being is a member of the Church, he becomes an “image of God”, he exists as God Himself exists, he takes on God’s “way of being.” This way of being… is a way of relationship with the world, with other people and with God, an event of communion, and that is why it cannot be realized as the achievement of an individual, but only as an ecclesial fact.” (John Zizioulas, Being as Communnion)

Of course, I didn’t read them that! I paraphrased it in simpler terms. I told them that whenever they go to church, taking part in the Christian community, they are becoming an image of God, reflecting the character of God.

They responded, “Huh?”

If God exist as three persons, sharing the same vision and aspiration, then that is a community. And that suggests that part of God’s image is existence in a community. And when Christians take part in a Christian community, we are reflecting God and becoming an image of God.

I think that was the climax of yesterday’s Bible Study. Before the session, I’ve planned to guide the group to exactly that point, realizing that participating in the Ecclesia is in the becoming an image of God. And by providence, we managed to get to that point.

Besides that, Kim brought up that Christians should read and understand the Bible as a community. I could not agree less. If an individual ignores others to understand the Bible, then his understanding will eventually turned into misunderstanding. Thus we not only need our present community to read to Bible together, but also the past communities and their reading of the Bible to help us to understand God’s word better.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mike Higton on God's Plan For You

*GASP*!!!.... I was stunned! Do I tell the members of my Bible study group this when they ask me about God's plan for them?

From Mike Higton:

Does God have a plan for my life?

Yes. God published it a while back. God’s plan is to kill you, and give you life.



Rowan Williams @ Night News


Excerpt from Rowan Williams' website

What about the way we live our lives now as a family; more mothers going out to work as I suggested, more couples being allowed to get married, single mothers on welfare support. Going back to some of those specifics, if you can, can you address them? Are they all good things, ought they to be encouraged?

We now have a very wide assortment of family patterns in this country. Now some of them are healthy and good, even when they are not particularly conventional. I guess that like many people, I have seen single mothers bringing up children in exemplary ways, sacrificial ways.

And you would say the same for gay couples?

I have seen gay couples with adoptive children who seem to be again, devoting sacrificial attention. Now whatever I think of the ethics of that, there is love and care going on there.

Now, you wouldn't rule any of these particular ways of bringing up children?

The law at the moment allows those.

What about the Church though?

The Church has its own rules about these things.

And where do you stand, with the law or with the Church?

I'm a member of the Church. I stand with the Church on these things. We do not encourage or sanction certain patterns of family life, the state does. We work with that the best we can.

You see, isn't the problem that there is a religion in this country that sets strict boundaries, that has a rigorous moral code, that is unswerving, that knows its mind; that religion is Islam. And the Church of England has kowtowed to the tolerances of the time or the trends of the time and in doing so, has lost its authority.

You could say that the Church of England is trying to deal with pastoral realism with a very, very complicated set of social circumstances. I think if you looked at how Islam, or Catholicism, or Hinduism, worked in slightly more complex situations, you would find that they were making pastoral accommodations as well.

And yet, when I have asked you for specific examples of how we should live our lives according to right and wrong, you have replied very diplomatically but with no authority of right and wrong.

What difference does it make if I say, "The root of all evil is single mothers. The root of all evil is irresponsible, individual teenagers. If we got them we would solve all the problems." What difference does that make? I don't think it does. What we can do is be as careful and as candid as we can in the analysis of the problem that asks, what will humanly make a difference to this? It is too easy to pontificate from a distance. I know what I believe about the nature of marriage and I am quite prepared to say so. I believe marriage is a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman whose purpose is partly the upbringing of children.

But do you not concede that we need from you a more muscular Christianity and all we are getting is one that has been replaced by the search for pluralism?

I think that is completely untrue. Do you think that people in this country faced with 'muscular Christianity', as you called it, are going to change their ways because I say so or anyone else says so? We have to have credibility in terms of what kind of healing or wholeness we can bring to peoples' lives by being alongside them. That involves more clarity, it involves moral perspective and orientation but nothing has changed by saying things are more loudly.

---------------------------------------------

Sze Zeng's Comment:

Williams asked, "Do you think that people in this country faced with 'muscular Christianity', as you called it, are going to change their ways because I say so or anyone else says so? We have to have credibility in terms of what kind of healing or wholeness we can bring to peoples' lives by being alongside them."

That's a very valid question to asked especially for leaders. Do we shove our granted authority on people or do we earn the credibility by bringing wholeness to people by being alongside them? I opt for Williams. We don't take our authority for granted.

To put that in theological studies, we don't take our interpretation or our understanding of the Bible for granted by invoking "Thus saith the Lord/Bible". Our interpretation has to be always dealing with "very very complicated set of social circumstance". For eg. Do we simply understand Genesis' account as historical 6-day creation event based merely on the text alone? Or do we also acknowledge the findings from other studies like Ancient Near Eastern cosmologies to our modern Stephen Hawking's cosmology to Aristotelian cosmology to Bi-Polar cosmology?

I would of course opt for the latter not because the Bible is not authoritative on me but because its authority is ultimately intertwined with this complicated world. Hence just to apprehend the scope of its authority, our theology has to extend beyond the text in order to offer wholeness by being alongside these circumstances.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Encounter @ TTC

Just now I was at Trinity Theological College's administration office. While waiting for my business, I was flipping through the 2007 Trinity Theological Journal. Then Roland Chia came out from his office and head straight towards me.

At that moment, I thought he was going to strangle me for disagreeing with an article that he wrote. But he didn't! I guess angels must have covered his eyes. Thank God!

So I pretended to be engrossed in reading the journal while my mind was repeatedly re-playing the scene when Jason Bourne was being ambushed and how he countered it. I was so ready to hit his throat with my right hand and shove the journal into his mouth if he really reaches me.



But he didn't. He just walked pass me and exited through the main entrance... phew~ Thank God... if not, TTC will witness red at the office today.

Anyway, we don't know each other la, so it's just a dramatized version... that's what I do when I'm in a queue... hahaha :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Making BS Interesting

Since the youth congregation started to use a new set of Bible study material, I have not been feeling comfortable leading my group. Reason is that I was trying very hard to stick to the structured questions. The problem is that some of the questions are no-brainers, though overall, the material is really good (no perfect BS material in this world!). So when I follow the question one by one with my group, they felt so uninteresting, which its reciprocity, affects my morale.

So yesterday, instead of following strictly with the question, I used the material as a platform to open up and encourage discussion among the members in my group, allowing them to ask question relevant to their own livinghood. Interestingly, we talked about finding God's calling for ourselves, how to deal with our exposure to homosexual friends, and how to read and follow the Bible (for eg. Kosher still applies to Christian today?).

It was fulfilling even though we didn't manage to finish all the questions on the material. The group found that the guidelines that I share with them are helpful. And from their participation, they were not as bored as they used to be.

My experience yesterday is refreshing. I had not been so fulfilled leading a BS group for a while. If you remember once a while ago that I blogged about my desire to quit leading, but yesterday I've learnt that there are still many ways that I can help my group members, making their faith relevant in their context, and reciprocally, they help me in understanding more about my own stance.

Disembodied Liturgy Contributes to Christian Hypocrisy?

I was in the midst of the youth congregation when they were offering songs of praises which one of them has the chorus:

“…we fall on our knees…”

But none of the congregation fell on their knees.

This is puzzling. How could the congregation be offering praises to God yet not embodying the offered praises?

Could this be a subconscious factor contributing to Christian hypocrisy, where the people are verbally expressing one thing yet they are physically expressing the contrary?

The point is that if our physical expression does not embody our verbal expression, especially when we are offering praises whether to other humans or to God, then our sincerity is questionable.

It is not that we were singing, “I’ll fly to the moon and back…”, some extraordinary action that we can’t do. Falling down on our knees is something that we can do on the spot, in the church, during the service. And if we don’t even bother to do things that are manageable, then should we expect ourselves to do other manageable things that we can do but do not do, like loving our neighbours as ourselves?

Hence disembodied liturgy is a subtle instillation of hypocrisy in the congregation. I think that such practices allow members of the church to cultivate the norm of not living out what they express verbally.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Upcoming Goodies

I'm so gonna watch these.

This week will be the muscular "Incredible Hulk". I'm keeping my fingers crossed till this Thursday. Hope this one will not be like the previous lousy flop done by Lee Ang. He almost destroy the legendary franchise single handedly! I think he should stick to making sexual movies and NEVER touch superhero blockbusters. Thinking about his flop made me feel like throwing out even now! That's how bad it is.



Next week is "You Don't Mess With The Zohan"! (Shout: I'm a fan of Adam Sandler!!). Zohan is some sort of a super agent who can catch bullets with his nose. If that doesn't give you enough reason to watch it, his attire might:


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stephen Tong 2008 Rally

I am very impressed with the marketing team behind the upcoming Stephen Tong's evangelistic rally. Knowing a few of the volunteers in this team, I have to extend my admiration and praise to them. They labored hard to promote this rally.

Besides pamphlets and posters, their promotion channels include:

Bookmarks

Key-chains and Fridge-Magnets

Drinking Cups
USB Thumb-drive!!!

By now, I think you are as impressed as me, right? OK... but don't just stick to the awe, the real significance is the rally which all these products pointing to. The details are below (click on the picture to visit the site). Bring your pre-believing friends and family members over. This is one evangelist they don't want to miss:


"Who Is Jesus?"

September, 11th -14th, 2008
Singapore Indoor Stadium
7pm

Language: Mandarin with English Translation

How to React When Oil Price Rocketed 41%

Updated (17 June 2008): Jason, Dave Chong and Steven Sim had told me that it is not good to paste the previous text-box which I got from Sakemi's blog here. So, now you have to go her blog to see what she wrote, if you wanna see.

Malaysia's oil price hike of 41% happened about 5 days ago. When I got to know about this, I didn't know what to say. Not that I didn't want to say or don't have anything to say, but my immediate reaction was somehow lacking linguistic expression.

Other Malaysians have blogged about this over the net. Yet I still have not really expressed myself over this oily issue here. Political giants like Anwar and Kit Siang to smaller giants like Steven Sim have all expressed concern and views over this. Not only that, biblical scholars like Kar Yong and Tony Siew, theologians like Sherman Kuek have also blogged about their concern.

I too have my concern especially when my parents, siblings, and friends are back there being choked by the inconsiderate government. But when I know about the price hike, I just couldn't articulate an immediate response though I sensed some recognizable yet inexpressible words in me. It's like one of those experience when you want to say something but you just don't know what and how to spell it out.

And you know what? This morning I chanced upon a friend's blog that embodies the exact expression that I was desperate but failed to utter in words. Sakemi is a friend since secondary school. Perhaps that explains the similar reaction between our psyche. Her sympathetic immediate response is nicely and unhesitatingly articulated.

Do you have the same experience? Hope my friend's blog helped you to articulate the shock.

St. Thomas on Christ's Nature

Make a guess: What would apostle Thomas said if he was at the Nicene Council, where over 300 Christian leaders/theologians/biblical scholars had the most important discussion in the history of the Christian Church about the nature of Christ?



My guess is that St. Thomas would had his mouth covered with both hands; Trembling and shut himself up.

You want to know why? Check this out:

Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to something and tell me what I am like." Simon Peter said to him, "You are like a just messenger." Matthew said to him, "You are like a wise philosopher." Thomas said to him, "Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like."

Jesus said, "I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended." And he took him, and withdrew, and spoke three sayings to him. When Thomas came back to his friends they asked him, "What did Jesus say to you?" Thomas said to them, "If I tell you one of the sayings he spoke to me, you will pick up rocks and stone me, and fire will come from the rocks and devour you." (The Gospel of Thomas, saying 13. Italics added)

Probably you are now guessing or dying to know what did Jesus said, right? I can't tell you because you will stone and fire will burn you!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Hurricane Names


No idea??? I'll give you a hint... Try forgetting your wife/girlfriend's birthday next time...

























Get it yet???

Eucharist

Early yesterday morning, while I walked out from my home towards the bus-stop for Sunday service, anticipating the Holy Communion, I asked myself, "Where is Jesus Christ?"

Then I turned my question to Nalika and asked her. She told me that Jesus Christ is everywhere. I pointed to the wall at Tiong Bahru's market and asked, "Is Jesus Christ there?", and then I pointed to the brick which I will be stepping on, and I asked, "Is Jesus Christ here?"

Nalika seemed troubled by my weirdness that morning. Then I elaborate more to her about my wonderment. "If Jesus Christ was risen bodily", I said, "and not merely spirit, but with a body that can be touched like any other material in our experience, then where is He now?"

The question was kept aside for a while.

During the time of Holy Communion, when I received the bread on my hand, I held it up and looked at it. I was reminded of the question again. And I turned to nalika and whispered, "psst...psst... Jesus Christ is here".
She looked at me and rebuked, "That's just a symbol, dear". I gasped. With haste, I took the pew Bible and turned it to John 6. With gasp, I showed it to her. It is written, "For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink".

Then I turned to Luke 24. It is written, "When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight."

Then I recalled what Ben Myer wrote:
...how can we understand Jesus’ continuing embodied reality today?... if Jesus is forever embodied as a human being, then where in the world is he? (An alternative way of answering this question... is Robert Jenson’s elegant proposal: Jesus is ascended bodily into heaven; and the location of heaven is the eucharistic altar.)
Then I partook the communion.

These are some thoughts to share on the Eucharist. And to those who prefers symbolic reading of the Eucharist, you may go and comfort yourself with Jon Bloom, the Exe Director of Desiring God.

Past Week

Last week, 5 movies watched:

1) The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
2) Rendition
3) Juno
4) Catch & Release
5) Kung Fu Panda

All are good in their own respect. But no time to write reviews. Was busy flipping pages.

I don't set a day for spending time with friends. Partly due to my personal hobby (my own indulgences). The rest of my time is for work and nothing else.

This came as a hit on my face when Michelle called me on Friday night. That's Angie's birthday, but I didn't feel like hanging out because I just wanted to be alone to flip pages. As a friend, I should at least give Angie a call but I didn't... instead I just SMS her. *GASP* My social manner is depreciating like the value of RM (Ringgit Malaysia) now.

Thus kind of admire Scot McKnight's commitment to set Friday for his friends. Perhaps, I should too. Perhaps once a week, I'll drop my indulgences, work, and movies. Just surround myself with buddies.

Last week, I got to know a new friend. Her name is Alerize (nice name). She is from Penang too. She is current in Singapore for studies, and attending City Harvest Church (as very noticeable in the stuffs she blogged!). We were from the same grassroot: Assembly of God.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Can God Be Known?

I have been thinking about this question for a while. And here is something that I wrote.

"Can God Be Known?"
The Primal Legitimacy of Theological Enquiry




The divine transcendence is by definition ineffable. If theology is an enterprise committed to make the transcendence the central theme, then it is nothing more than, and really is, anthropology in general, and psychology in particular. That means when we read a particular theology, what we really know is the theologian’s thoughts rather than the transcendental reality which the theologian attempts to cognitively attain.

And following from that, one has to ask whether is theology, by definition, an enterprise destined to fail? How can one know the unknownable? Therefore before we explore our engagement with the divine, it is worth noting the fundamental role played by negative theology or apophatic theology in theological endeavours.

By ‘negative’, it does not pessimistically assert that we cannot affirm anything true about the transcendent. Negative theology functions, rather, as a means than an end. Drawing from Vladimir Lossky, Rowan Williams comments that apophatic theology is “a receptacle, the necessary condition for the apprehension of revelation.” (Mike Highton (ed), Wrestling with Angels, p.1-24 ). Negative theology essentially permits us the understanding of God’s own exposure of Himself.

Reflecting on these, Wolfhart Pannenberg wrote, “The knowledge of God that is made possible by God and therefore by revelation is one of the basic conditions of the concept of theology as such. Otherwise the possibility of the knowledge of God is logically inconceivable; it would contradict the very idea of God” (Systematic Theology, vol. 1, p.2). Pannenberg argues that it is only through God’s own revelation that we may have a glimpse of the divine. Hence, in order to put revelation in place, apophatic theology serves as a necessary condition that enables the recovery of the theologian’s primary task.

If it is through revelation that we attain cognition about God, then our starting point is already a derivation from the transcendence. And that, in effect, has much to say about our theological cognition on one hand, and much to question on our own initiative in theologising on the other.

On the latter, we have to recognize that the foremost practice of theology is not so much organizing our thoughts of God but rather our appropriation towards God through alleged revelation. In the former, the transcendent is being assumed to be an immediate observable object, which is by its own definition is impossible. In the latter, the divine reality exposes Himself, making Himself observable to which this particular act demands, instigates, and invites our response and hence our appropriation towards Him, became our subject.

In other words the study, learning, and thinking on the transcendence is never at any moment our cognitive initiation, but rather always the process of appropriating ourselves in relation to being exposed to the divine. Thus the conventional understanding of the theologian’s task as studying God by approximation or estimation must be translated to our appropriation towards God. To put it simply, the answer to the question “Can God be known?” is this: God can only be known if and only if it is He, Himself, that initiates the theological enquiry; and He, Himself, that provides the answer. This, perhaps, reminiscences Karl Barth’s aphorism, “God is known through God, and through God alone.” (Church Dogmatics, II:1, sect. 27, 1, p.179). Therefore, the strict implication for philosophy of religion is that, in order to prevent theology to be merely anthropology or psychology, we can only attain cognition of the transcendence through revelatory religion.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Fetish & Christians


I had lunch with Yip Khiong this afternoon. In the midst of our conversation, out of my curiousity, I asked him why does he so enthusiastic on topic related to sexuality. And out of that, he made an interesting point.

He told me that everyone has their own fetish. And each person should concentrate on their different passion to shed different light on certain issue, and contribute to the humanity as a whole. "For instance", he said, "churches should conduct seminars or conferences on topic related to the enhancement of sexual pleasure for married couples". *wink wink*

"Another instance is that whenever churches send provisions like clothing or toiletries to overseas missionaries, they should also include condoms. This is because at certain countries, missionary couples might not have access to contraceptive means." *wink wink wink*

mmm... I have never thought of that. Have you?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Mystery of 'Non-Hatred'

Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a ‘Law Eternal’. (Dhammapada 1.5)
Note: ‘Law Eternal’ (Dhammo Sanantano) is a natural principle, timeless norm, what works on its original power requiring no extraneous support. By its own nature hatred only generates and never appeases hatred. (Ven. Buddharakkhita, Dhammapada, note 1)

The enlightened Buddha discovered the profound working principle behind the vice ‘hatred’. As profound as this discovery is, one can’t help but to sense the silhouette of impartiality shadowed in the passage. What does he meant by ‘non-hatred’?

He is absolutely right to highlight the nature of ‘hatred’ that cannot be pacified by hatred. So many of us have been easily deluded to believe that the way to counter hatred is by hatred itself. In fact, how often do we find ourselves so naturally inclined to respond to hatred by hating?

Yet the silhouette of the passage remains a silhouette, not least for the next 500 years, hidden within the great minds of the ancient Brahmins. Little did these ancients know that this hidden silhouette was destined to be brought to light by a different person from a different world.

About half a millennia later, after the days of the Buddha, in the dust of the ancient Palestine, came the anointed man, Jesus. Striding on the pathway of the enlightenment, he proclaimed the inauguration of a new epoch. The promised epoch once promised by the Ancient of Days. An epoch that might have been foresaw by the enlightened Buddha. And it was through this man that the hidden silhouette was finally unveiled:

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. (Luke 6:35)

The ‘non-hatred’ named by the enlightened one, Buddha, has been fully described by the anointed one, Jesus. This ‘good’ is the mystery that supersedes the eternal law. The once impartial truth discovered by Buddha is now fully expressed by Jesus. Decades later, St. Paul, a follower of Jesus recapitulates his master well, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Me & John Piper on Fundamentalists

My comments (in blue) on John Piper's 20 Reasons I Don't Take Potshots at (Christian) Fundamentalists.



1. They are humble and respectful and courteous and even funny. (Many Buddhist, Atheists, etc are like that too)

2. They believe in truth. (Their truth, that is)

3. They believe that truth really matters. (By being fundamentalistic towards their truth without need to heed others)

4. They believe that the Bible is true, all of it. (Their own interpretation of the Bible, that is)

5. They know that the Bible calls for some kind of separation from the world. (that includes separation from other non-fundamentalistic Christians?)

6. They have backbone and are not prone to compromise principle. (Read: Stubborn)

7. They put obedience to Jesus above the approval of man (even though they fall short, like others). (Good to learn this from them)

8. They believe in hell and are loving enough to warn people about it. (The Spannish Inquisition is the most loving then)

9. They believe in heaven and sing about how good it will be to go there. (Good for them)

10. Their "social action" is helping the person next door (like Jesus), which doesn't usually get written up in the newspaper. (Good to learn this from them)

11. They tend to raise law-abiding, chaste children, in spite of the fact that Barna says evangelical kids in general don't have any better track record than non-Christians. (No idea)

12. They resist trendiness. (No idea)

13. They don’t think too much is gained by sounding hip. (Good to learn this from them)

14. They may not be hip, but they don’t go so far as to drive buggies or insist on typewriters. (Good to learn this from them)

15. They still sing hymns. (So what?)

16. They are not breathless about being accepted in the scholarly guild. (That's not carrying out what St. Paul urges Christians to do in "taking captive every thoughts for Christ..")

17. They give some contemporary plausibility to New Testament claim that the church is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth.” (They cannot match up to the Roman Catholics in this regard)

18. They are good for the rest of evangelicals because of all this. (Nonsense, unless Evangelicalism wants to be defined in that way)

19. My dad was one. (OK.... no wonder this list)

20. Everybody to my left thinks I am one. And there are a lot of people to my left. (OK, OK....double 'no wonder' why this list)

2nd Celebration

Seven days ago was the 2nd celebration of tolerating ourselves from killing each other for another year. By God's grace, we didn't strangle or slit one another's throat during the past 365 days. So blessed anniversary of peace and patience for these two fallen and despicable creatures (don't be deceived by their 'innocent' pink attire).

TTC & SBC

Stephen Rapkin told me this "win-win" joke last Sunday. It's "win-win" because no matter which side you are at, you are vindicated.

There was a local young chap who wanted to pursue theological studies. After completing his survey of all the theological institutions in Singapore, he shortlisted two. These two are none other than the prestigious Trinity Theological College (TTC) and Singapore Bible College (SBC).

He doesn't know which one he should join. But since both institutions require their applicants to go through an interview, so this young chap decided to attend both so that he can find out more. And since SBC arranged the interview earlier than TTC, so the chap went for it.

During the interview, the chap told the interviewer about his crossroad situation. So the interviewer asked him, "Do you know who is the author of the Pentateuch?"

The chap took a while before he reply, trying to figure out whether did he come across the answer during his daily Bible reading. Nonetheless his memory failed him. So he replied, "No sir, I do not know."

Upon hearing his answer, the interviewer smiled. He has the answer not only for the question he posted to the chap, but more than that, he grasped also the solution to help the chap to choose his college. The interviewer said, "Well... That settles your dilemma. You should join SBC since those at TTC don't know the answer either."

'Win-win' joke, right? No matter you are from SBC or TTC, you are in the right.. HAHAHAHA!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Got To Stop!!!!

I'm giving myself an urgent warning that I have to stop buying books and start saving.

Buying books is fundamentally buying information, and wisdom comes as bonus. If you want to be right on something, you have to buy them. No free lunch. Thus I have no qualms that books are expensive.

Yes, I used to complain a lot, but not anymore...perhaps only on Karl Barth's 14-volumes Church Dogmatics. But other than that, I don't really complain. In fact I think those who complains on book prices are probably those who do not have high value on information. Thus some people dont mind paying $750 for a DKNY's shirt. But if you tell them that Karl Barth's tome costs $750, they will dismiss you as crazy, without even care to find out why it is so. But that really shows you how much that person care about knowledge and wisdom.Anyway, I'll curb myself from lavishly spending on books. Not because I don't value knowledge, but limited resources have to take family and neighbors into account.