Tuesday, March 31, 2009

T.F. Torrance on 'Power'

Many local Christians might have come across how local preachers have been expounding 'grace'. Especially so, if you are attending New Creation Church where Joseph Prince tirelessly preaches about it every Sunday.

But if you are bored with the often surface treatment on 'grace', perhaps T.F. Torrance could recast your understanding of the over-used word:
‘[The] movement of God’s holy love into the heart of the world’s evil and agony is not to be understood as a direct act of sheer almighty power, for it is not God’s purpose to shatter and annihilate the agents and embodiments of evil in the world, but rather to pierce into the innermost center of evil power where it is entrenched in the piled-up and self-compounding guilt of humanity in order to vanquish it from within and below, by depriving it of the lying structures of half-truth on which it thrives and of the twisted forms of legality behind which it embattles itself and from which it fraudulently gains its power. Here we have an entirely different kind and quality of power, for which we have no analogies in our experience to help us understand it, since it transcends every kind of moral and material power we know, the power which the Bible calls grace’.
(Thomas F. Torrance, Divine and Contingent Order [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2005], p.136. Thanks to Per Crucem ad Lucem for the quote.)

Missing moments with family

Yesterday my sister added me as 'Friend' on Facebook. Looking at her profile makes me feel a bit guilty for not able to be there to see her grow up. She will be going to Taiwan for study later this year. She might be going there for good.

Just now I received a message from my brother through Facebook. He asked me whether do I want to celebrate my sister's birthday later this month in Genting. Of course I do!

Big pay-check for church leaders

In New Creation Church's last financial year annual report, one church leader being paid between $500,001 and $550,000, while two others were paid between $150,001 and $200,000.

Though no names were given, their honorary secretary apologetically said that, "Senior Pastor Prince is the key man responsible for bringing in about 95 per cent of our church's income. I must concede that he has enriched the church and not the other way round."

He also revealed that Mr Prince had given $563,360 to the building project. Do we still need names?

Prince is a smart man. After the project completed, they will have larger space to get more people into the church. And that translates more 'church's income' in its honorary secretary's word.

Is NCC hiring? Appears that they are. *eyebrow raised at Steven Sim*

Financial Counselling Talk

FCCP is conducting a Financial Counselling Talk on April 15, (Wed) from 7.30 - 9.30pm at Graduates’ Christian Fellowship Conference Room to help equip fellow Christian care professionals with a reasonable understanding of the financial issues faced by clients and some practical skills on how to counsel such clients.

Some Topics Covered
• Redemption of God from Debt
• Budgeting & Debt Reduction
• Biblical Framework for Personal Finance

Rev Canon Dr James Wong has been in active Christian service for 50 years. He has served on many Christian organizations which include the Scripture Union, Graduates Christian Fellowship, the National Council of Churches, the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore and the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization. He is also the Founder-President of the annual Festival of Praise since 1986. He has planted several churches both in Singapore and Indonesia. Currently he serves as the Honorary National Director for Crown Financial Ministries and the Crusade for World Revival which was founded by the late Selwyn Hughes.

Mr. Benny Ong is the founding Director of a financial advisory firm in Singapore. He has conducted many seminars for churches, voluntary organizations and financial institutions on investment and finance. He is active in the marketplace ministry and has written numerous articles for The Straits Times, Business Times, The Singapore Exchange Journal and Impact Christian Magazine.

T.G. Tay is the CEO of Financial Life Coaching Pte Ltd, a training outfit set up to spearhead workplace financial education and the coaching and training of wealth planners and financial advisers to move beyond the usual piece-meal, transaction-based selling to providing a more integrated and comprehensive wealth and financial advisory service. He is the author/co-author of 4 interactive multimedia training CDs that include “Financial Freedom - 7 keys to walking in victory” and “Financial Planning-Uncommonsense”.

Address: 420 North Bridge Road, #05-04, North Bridge Centre, Singapore 188727

Admission is FREE! Please register with Simon at gcfsing@gcf.org.sg

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Democracy Tree

"This domain is dedicated to Malaysians who are fighting for a democracy system and nation in Malaysia. BN government can destroy the plague and the tree, but their lasting images will be alive in the virtual world forever."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cry of a Malaysian

My country's future seem to be as vague as it can be. Finally the incompetent PM Abdullah will be stepping down next week. But the upcoming PM Najib Razak who failed to do his job as Minister of Defence and his connection with Altantuyaa's case doesnt make him a promising leader.

(Picture taken from Malaysian Insider)

Mahathir attended UMNO assembly yesterday and planned to rejoin UMNO. But just 2 days ago he said that he is not attending the meetings because he is disgusted by UMNO's "politik rasuah" (political corruption). He even said that attending those meetings would pollutes his image, "Saya rasa diri saya akan tercemar jika saya berada dalam majlis yang disertai oleh orang yang mendukung amalan rasuah."

And it was Mahathir who tampered with Malaysia's judiciary and hence responsible for paralying it to its current state.

The country's anti-corruption agencies MACC has no real power. They are under UMNO's discretion.

In the past, there are attempts being made to the royalty to intervene and right the political situation in the country. But if we want to depend on the country's sultans and king to lead the country, we are dreaming big. They are useless. One reason is that Malaysia is not a monarchy, it's a democracy. Even though there are role for the royalty in the Constitution, yet these royalties are puppets strang by UMNO.

This is most obvious when Perak was being robbed from its people by UMNO. The royalty supported UMNO even though it is not constitutional.

During this tragic, where was Raja Nazrin Shah? The Crown Prince of Perak which was once favoured by Malaysians? Why was he, a phD in political science from Harvard, has nothing to say against this power grab? What is he doing with his phD?

Of course the opposition parties cannot speak out against the royalty so that UMNO don't get to charge them disrespecting the Malay royals, which the UMNO nonetheless did several times.

And when Karpal Singh questioned the royalty, he was immediately being charged. But on the other hand, Altantuyaa's case is still not settled after 2 years!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sickness: Where is God?

I have been sick since Monday. It started with cough, then high fever with sore throat. And when I couldn't take it anymore I went to the local GP for the third time. This time he wrote me a letter to be admitted into the hospital.

So I went to the hospital to have my body checked. After about 5 hours and 3 tests, I'm confirmed to be fine. No dengue nor liver failure nor cancerous lump. I was relieved. But the pain and the trouble in these past few days are demoralizing.

While observing all the sick people at the Accident & Emergency area at Singapore General Hospital, I started asking pui yee a question which I always asked since I was a child, before I became a Christian: Why is it so suffering to be human?

She didn't say anything. Perhaps she knows that it is useless for her to say anything not because she doesn't have the answer, but I won't accept it even though it is true. I was sick and in my agony, it is hard for me to rationalize an answer. Not because I can't rationalize but because rationality is not going to bring relief or improve my condition.

Does the cries of my body means anything? My suffering in a way has spread to other people, making them worry and concern over me? Pui Yee was exhausted seeing and taking care of me through these painful moments. Does all these thing have a purpose? Where is God when his people weep? Where is Jesus when we weep?

While searching for answer with nausea and coughing out pleghm at the same time was an experience. All I find comfort in are through the goodness that have been showered on me. Through these few days of rush hours, Pui Yee discovered the stronger side of herself. She has been running around to get things done for me, to ensure I have the best condition to recover. And it was through this that I found out that she cooks tasty noodle soup. Taste a bit like Thai-style soup and ABC soup combined. I love Tom-Yam and ABC soup. So it was quite a discovery for me actually.

Besides that my landlord has been very kind. She has been boiling barley water for me these two days. She even offered to cook soup and meal for me. My friends have been sending well wishes through Facebook, SMS, Google talk, and phone call.

So back to the question, where is Jesus when we weep?

He was at Bethany weeping together with those who weep (John 11.35). The death of his good friend Lazarus can be prevented and cries can be avoided if Jesus was there earlier to heal him. Yet he delayed his trip.

Upon arriving at the tomb and seeing all those who were there, Jesus with his face still flowing with tears asked, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

And he prayed, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."

Through my sickness, God's glory manifested in those people around me, through the goodness they poured onto me. Zhen Hao remarked that perhaps this crisis is a blessing in disguise. He is right. It's an event where the goodness of God is shown through the goodness of the people even if it is in the midst of suffering. Not only that, Jesus is together with those who weep, as in Bethany, weeping together.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kam Weng on Resurrection's implication

"...the historical existence and present activity of Christ is the focus of God's special power and presence aimed at reordering and renewing created order. In particular, the resurrection confirms reality as a redeemed and liberated arena open to human participation."
(Ng Kam Weng, From Christ to Social Practice, p.190)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spice up bookworms' lives

To those couples who love reading:

English Presbytery Easter Convention 2009

Topic: Up with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration
Date: 8 April 2009
Time: 7.45pm
Venue: Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary School

Topic: Down with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
Date: 9 April 2009
Time: 7.45pm
Venue: Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary School

Topic: What really matters is "Do you love me?"
Date: 10 April 2009
Time: 10.30am
Venue: Singapore Expo Convention Hall 3

About the speaker:
Dr. Albert Ting is currently the principal of Singapore Bible College. He was born in Sarawak, Malaysia in 1958. He received his theological training at Singapore Bible College in 1979. Upon graduation in 1983, he returned to Sarawak to plant a daughter church for his home church, Miri Gospel Chapel. In 1987, Albert received his Master of Divinity from Talbot School of Theology, and his Doctor of Ministry from Biola University in1992 respectively. During that period of time, he interned at First Chinese Baptist Church, Fountain Valley and became their assistant pastor in 1989. He was ordained into the ministry in 1990. In response to God's calling to return to Asia, Albert continued to pursue a Master of Theology from Talbot and graduated in 1996. In December of that year, he and his family moved to Singapore from California to be a full-time lecturer at Singapore Bible College.

Sickness & Theology

Recently many people around me fell sick. Shona, Steven, Josephine, Angie, etc. I was coughing since Monday.

Went to the doctor for cough medicine and antibiotic. I told the doctor that there's a lump on my upper neck. He checked it and asked me to finish the antibiotic in 5 days. If the lump still there, then I would have to go back for further check.

Yesterday I was on medical leave. I slept almost the entire day. Was feeling nausea and tired. Wasn't able to move much. So I went to the doctor again. And to my surprise, my temperature measured 39.1c.

The doctor prescribed some paracetamol and pills for nausea. He suspects that I might have dengue fever. So he gave me 2 more days of MC for me to observe for rashes and other symptoms.

When I told Steven, who was also sick, about the likelihood that I'm having dengue fever, he was surprised to find out that there are aedes mosquitoes in Singapore. After all, it's a clean and fine country, isn't it?

Sickness and aedes are agents to show us how vulnerable we are, or a nation is, no matter how advanced or independent we claim to be. After all, I always have a proud sense of independence that I don't need anyone to help me live my life, isn't it?

Yet I was proven wrong yesterday. I can't even buy my own dinner even though I have the money. The nausea prevents me from walking out of my home. Hence I'm very grateful for Pui Yee for her care and help.

Without these agents, we would continue to delude ourselves that we are independent, clean, and fine. And this contra the view of Karma which deem sickness as the effects of some bad deeds we have done in the past or previous lives.

Moderation of comments is necessary

I just received 2 comments on my review of Joseph Prince's book which I've moderated. The person comes in a pseudonym "stophatingonJP". The pseudonym shows no profile.

Both his/her comments come with "you are an idiot", "you are such a moron", and "you are just plain stupid". What's worse is that the comments don't make sense on my review. As if he doesn't know what I'm saying. So it's obvious why moderation.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gospel Articulation: Content & Conceptualizing

Interesting to see how different people conceive the meaning of the gospel in and for today's world. Besides pointing to two Reformed evangelists' presentation of the gospel, I've also included Rowan Williams' take on it. You may notice the subtle difference in content and also the not-so-subtle difference in conceptualizing the answer.

John Piper
The gospel: God sent his son into the world, the God-Man, really man, really god, really human, really divine, live a perfect life, fulfill the whole law, died in the place of sinners intentionally, absorbed all the wrath of God against those who believe in him. Takes away all their guilt, forgives all their sins, rises from the death, triumph over death, and hell, and satan. Since rules with power from on high will come again, gives eternal lives, raise from the dead all those who trusted in him. There is no better news.

Mark Dever:
The gospel is the great news that we as Christians have. The gospel is the story that God is not going to leave this world in the mess that it currently in. God going to, as said in one place, that he would make all things news.

Now that’s not necessarily good news to me unless I’m included in that. So how do I get included in that? Well, I have to come to understand who God is, that I have a creator. I have to come to understand what is he like that he is holy and perfect, that he is loving and merciful. But that I have sinned against him. I’ve separated myself from him by my sin. And that in his love and mercy, God could have simply allowed me an earthly life with some pleasures and then let me fall forever under his judgment. But in his extraordinary, amazing, unparallel love, the son of God has come and taken on flesh.

Jesus of Nazareth is fully God, fully man, and he lived the life that I should have live in perfect fellowship with God. And he died the death that I deserve because I haven’t lived a life in perfect fellowship with God. And then God raised him from the dead, vindicating all the claims that he had made about what his life and what his death were about and what were for. And he calls me now to repent, to turn from my sins and to trust in him as my saviour. So that that which I deserve, I will not get. And that which he is deserved for me will be given to me. So that I have faith in him, I trust him. And this is the good news, this is the gospel. And this is how I can participate in that re-creation that God will bring about that we read at the end of the Bible. That is just so marvellous. And that is great news. And that’s the very centre of what an evangelical church should be about. And what every Christians life should be about.

Rowan Williams:
Let’s try to put the New Testament context into a slightly more contemporary frame. In the New Testament era, people in Jesus’ world were very concern about who belong and who didn’t belong to the people of God. Who really counted as a member of the Jewish people. And there are different attempt to answers that question. Very priestly attempt and legal attempt and so on.

Put that in slightly more modern terms. The question is what does it mean to belong with God? What does it mean to be at home with God, to know who are at home with God? Jesus says that to be at home with God or to belong to God doesn’t begin by ticking the boxes on a list of rules. It doesn’t begin by your inheritance, it doesn’t begin in ritual. It begins in trust. And I think that is just as simple and contemporary just as it was in the first century Palestine. It begins in trust. Jesus says to his contemporaries, “If you trust me when I tell you what God is like, and if you accept the welcome that I’m telling you and God offers you, then that’s it.

Now of course that then plays itself out in the fact that it gets more and more challenging to trust Jesus. How do you trust when he appears to fail and appears to die? Well you trust him because through and in that, his integrity remains, his offer remains. And as far as the crucifixion, the same offer is made. Nothing can destroy that offer. And whole cause of our own confusion and our own unwillingness to live, his blood has eaten up in the act of love on the cross of Jesus. So in a very very short space, “What is the gospel?” Trust Jesus when he tells you what God is like.

Oliver O’Donovan highlights in ‘On Rowan Williams: Critical Essays’ that the often “superficial difference” that those who took up the traditional presentation of doctrines overlooked the fact that “how deeply rooted Williams is and winnowing his doctrine out of careful appreciation. He constructs his doctrine of redemption around the Trinity, reconciliation, and the church, rather than around justification.” (Italics added, p.x)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Christian Doctrine Seminar

Organized by the Reformed Evangelical Church (REC) Singapore:

Christian Doctrine Seminar

The Paganization of the West
and the Global Challenge to Christian Truth

28th March 2009, Saturday
10am - 2.30pm

Fee: $50 (professional), $20 (students)

2nd Floor, Sanctuary
True Way Presbyterian Church
(next to Queenstown MRT)

About the speaker:

Prof. Peter R. Jones was Professor of New Testament at Westminster Seminary California from 1991 to 2003.

He and his family came to the U.S. in 1991, after 18 years of cross-cultural mission work on behalf of the Presbyterian Church in America, assisting the theological training of Reformed pastors and church planters in France. He taught Greek and New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, and was Professeur de Nouveau Testament and Director of the Master’s Programme, Faculté de Théologie Réformée d’Aix-en-Provence. Among his writings are: A Second Moses According to 2 Corinthians 2:14-4:6; God’s Inerrant Word (contributor); “1 Corinthians 15:8—Paul the Last Apostle” Tyndale Bulletin; The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back; La deuxième épître de Paul aux Corinthiens; Spirit Wars; Gospel Truth & Pagan Lies; Capturing the Pagan Mind; Cracking Da Vinci’s Code; Stolen Identity; The God of Sex, and articles in La Revue Réformée, Etudes Evangéliques, Ichthus, and Hokhma.

In January 2003, Dr. Jones was named Scholar in Residence and Adjunct Professor at Westminster Seminary California. He is director of Christian Witness to a Pagan Planet, now truthXchange, a national and international teaching, preaching, and writing ministry for the church and the campus. He and his wife, Rebecca, live in Escondido.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Some Thoughts on Part 1 of Scripture's Doctrine & Theology's Bible

Some thoughts on 'Part 1' of the significant Scripture’s Doctrine and Theology’s Bible edited by Markus Bockmuehl and Alan Torrance.

The purpose of this book is as described by Markus Bockmuehl ‘to commend and to exemplify’ the ‘critical task’ to rediscover the aged dance performed by exegesis and dogmatic/theology (p.13).

Wagner in the first essay, following Brevard Childs, points out the essential task for us to actively engage with the early Christians’ appropriation of the Septuagint to help us to in our search for our Christian’s Bible.

In order to do that, Wagner helpfully clear some misconceived assumptions in our search for the Septuagint. For example, we shouldn’t assume the existent of a single Septuagint canon or text at that time, and we must not to take the Septuagint as ‘an alternative tradition disconnected’ from the Hebrew Scripture (p.19). He suggests at the end of the essay that the Spirit-driven mechanism ‘sanctification’ of Scripture articulated by John Webster enables us to extend our canonical reading to the Septuagint.

I am not as concern as Wagner to re-open the already closed and impasse question of the Christian canon. In fact I doubt the validity of his concern. Since we don’t have any assurance regarding the existent of a fixed Septuagint in the time before fixation of the Christian canon in the first few centuries A.D, then what Wagner was doing is just beating around the bushes, or at least until the discovery of a fixed text. Yet his essay would serve well to commend the critical task the book attempts at.

Bockmuehl in the second essay of the book finely exemplifies the task to theologize from the Scripture. He picked the dialog between Ernst Kasemann and Raymond Brown on the doctrine of the church as his case study, trying to find out whether can we get arrive at any doctrine from studied conducted on the New Testament?

After describing and assessing the works of both giants, Bockmuehl reveals his sympathy with Brown’s findings. He then asked whether the New Testament’s testimony on the church be normative to our understanding and construction of the identity of the church. He concludes in the positive. Bockmuehl’s examination is impressive especially in his 3 suggestions to sharpen the focus of the question (p.39 onwards).

R.W.L. Moberly's section over the much contending verse John 14.6 discusses the often neglected outline which the verse should be understood from within. His purpose is to see how Johanine Christology should be appropriated in Jewish-Christian dialogue. (p.46)

The verse is not merely about what others, including myself, have often take as Jesus' exclusive claim over and against all other religions/philosophies/way of life. Moberly shows that the verse is about "Jesus' going to the Father via the cross is a way of self-giving love whose content becomes definitive for others also to come to, and to know, God as Father." (p.52)

I'm convinced with Moberly's exegesis yet the only puzzle that I have is his choice of John's gospel. Since it is for the purpose of Jewish-Christian dialogue, wouldn't the sypnotic, particularly Matthew's gospel, be more appropriate in the sense that there are more common ground to set the dialogue going and to see the nuanced differences between the both?

In his essay, N.T. Wright, being consistent with his narrative reading of the New Testament, proposed that we view doctrine as “portable stories”. Hence doctrines to Wright are synopses of a grander narrative found within the New Testament writings. This essay is vintage N.T. Wright.

Hardly I'll have much contention with the good bishop. I think his framing doctrine as portable narrative is more explicable and closer to the function of doctrine than a proposition-like affirmation of creeds.

Roman Catholic Church spent USD 436 million in 2008...

compensating victims who were sexually abused by priests in which "one in five victims were under the age of 10". And these clergymen are allegedly succeeding the Twelve Apostles. Sickening.

The Vatican claims that they are the true church because of their Apostolic Succession. Either they are right or not. But in this case, even if they are, it doesn't mean anything.

I think Jesus did highlight, though neither suggest nor reject, one option that the Roman Church can pick up if they still insist sucking sticking to their priestly code on celibacy:
"For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." (Matt 19.12)

Sze Zeng on...

The greater love one has, the graver harm one exposes to. Thus the greatest love carries the gravest exposure. No?? Look at the bloody cross.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Church helping Church: Fantastic!

On March 2008, the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Christian Church of Singapore got kicked out by the landlord of its previous premise at River Valley Road. Since then they have been holding their Sunday service/mass in a rented classroom at the Anglo-Chinese School (International).

While they had only 3 hours to occupy the classroom, the congregation had to unpack and pack up before and after Sunday's service because their tradition involved many icons and relics. It's Sunday worship on the exile.

Upon seeing this, the Roman Catholic church stepped in to help. They availed a permanent space in their Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre for the Orthodox congregation.

This is fantastic! Church can and should help other churches. In this case, the Roman Catholic has set a good example. Hope they have the same attitude to the Protestants and vice versa.

"...that they may be one as we are one..." (John 17:20-22)

Rubati posted something interesting on ecumenism too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sze Zeng on...

'Love' and 'Obsession' are different from each other. Love gives life and freedom to its object. Obsession owns the life and freedom of its object.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bart Erhman again!

First, he was raised from a fundamentalist religious background. Went to Wheaton, then to Princeton Theological Seminary for his graduate and post-graduate studies. It was there he discovered that the Scripture is not inerrant. And that shocked him. Then he started questioning Christianity; a quest which eventually led him to agnosticism.

In 2007, he published Misqouting Jesus. The following year, God's Problem. And recently, Jesus, Interrupted, which subtitled: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them).

All three books are written for the general public. All three books challenge Christianity. And all three have received many critical and negative response from all sides. One of them by Daniel Wallace, the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.

Last year Bart Ehrman went head on with Daniel Wallace in a public debate. The review of the debate can be read here.

Darrell Bock has just posted a brief review on Ehrman's latest nonsense book here,
"One has to wonder when an author admits to providing nothing new in a book what the motive is for writing. Informing? Apparently not. Crusading? Perhaps."
(Italics added)
There are many who don't take the Bible to be inerrant, and our intellectual commitment to Christianity and honesty to our faith still remain intact.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"stephen tong sze zeng liberal"

I noticed someone googled for my view on Stephen Tong just now through Feedjit. And this is what the person typed in the search box:

"stephen tong sze zeng liberal"

And what does that mean? Stephen Tong is a liberal? Sze Zeng is a liberal? Sze Zeng's view is liberal compared to Stephen Tong? What? Anyway, if you are the person looking for my view on Stephen Tong, you may go here.

Thanks for the visit :)

Test of FAITH - Faraday Institute

Stephen Garner notified the project Test of FAITH by Faraday Institute. The trailer seems promising. The project is to produce a video and book as resources to help Christians understand the relation between Christianity and science. Top scientists and scholars are featured.

Ng Kam Weng's response to Dzulkifli Abdul Razak

Dave Chong highlighted Kam Weng's reply to an article published in The Sun newspaper written by Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, the Vice Chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Dzulkifli sees the Malay translation of the Bible marks the "inconsistency, indifference and arrogance" of the translators, especially when it comes to translate Jesus as the "Son of God".

Kam Weng responded that Dzulkifli's lack of interpretation execises and his petty ocncern over minor issues have blinded him from discussing the core issue,
"Dzulkifli’s manifest confusion in his reading or rather misreading of the Bahasa Bible could easily be avoided if he just follows Aristotle’s dictum and attempts an internally coherent reading of the text on its own terms... Dzulkifli’s criticisms fail to carry weight because he has not undertaken both a diachronic and synchronic analysis of lexical terms used in the original texts. Without this prior exercise he has no grounds to justify why he cannot accept certain translations of Biblical terms, which are based on objective principles of linguistics."
Kam Weng is right. I was puzzled over the vice chancellor's inability to understand how the New Testament authors used the word "kurios" and "theos". It seems that Dzulkifli has no basic hermeneutical skill. And I wonder how is he the vice chancellor of a university that bears the word "science" on its name. He can't even know how to read (or interpret)!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jurgen Moltmann on 'Human Life'

"Human life is totally human when it’s totally alive. Human life is livingness. And human livingness means to be entrusted to be concerned and involved. Concern in live is what we call love. True human life comes from love, is arrived and being loved, and through loving makes something living other life too."
(Jurgen Moltmann, The Parchman Endowed Lectures, session 1, dated 21 March 2000)

Friday, March 13, 2009

St. Paul's Cathedral Science and Religion Debate

This significant event is hardly mentioned around the blogosphere, so perhaps the least I can do is to mention it here. Last year October, St. Paul's Cathedral organized a series of debate involving scientists, theologians, and biblical scholars over the issue of religion and science. Premier Radio helpfully provides the recording on its website. There were 4 public debates:
The Battle for Truth?
Does science lead to atheism? Is religious faith irrational? Four theologians consider the nature of science and religion, how they meet and clash.

God and the Universe
The ‘Big Bang’ has reopened the debate about the creation of the universe. This discussion looks at the origin and destiny of the universe, and what cosmology has to say about God and creation. (Here's the transcript)

Stories of Evolution
Our bodies are made of the same stuff as the planet itself, every species and came together against powerful odds. What does this say about creation and our place in it?

Body and Soul
Understanding the Human Being. This debate includes experts in medical genetics, theology, physics and reproductive technology to explore what we are and if there is place for a soul.

Sze Zeng on...

It is nuisance not to be stained with scars for humanity while claiming to follow the wounded and crucified Christ.

Vacancy: Secretary-General of Family Business Network Pacific Asia Chapter

Job Profile:
Secretary-General of Family Business Network Pacific Asia Chapter

The Organisation:
Family Business Network (FBN) International is non-profit making organization. It is the world's leading network of business owning families, promoting the success and sustainability of family business. It has more than 2,000 distinguished family members from 45 countries in 5 continents. All these are owners, leaders and future leaders of significant family enterprises. (For more information, please go to web: www.fbn-i.org)

The Family Business Network Pacific Asia Chapter has been newly inaugurated in 2008. Geographically it covers Singapore, China, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan. It provides a networking platform for the community to pursue their causes for the region.

The Position's Key Responsibility:
Reporting to the Acting President, FBN Pacific Asia, the incumbent will be instrumental in developing and implementing the strategy on network development and driving membership recruitment establish the necessary infrastructure and ensure smooth day-to-day running of the Chapter in accordance with the corporate governance implement and manage the policies and programs of the Chapter, helping to championing its causes.

Being the main driver of network development, attracting targeted members will be a key success factor. To complement this function to enable attracting, retaining and growing of membership, this position will collaborate with stakeholders and build partnerships to ensure other necessary activities including marketing management, events/programs management, administration and research are developed and synergized .

Another key success factor will be ensuring the Chapter’s financial sustainability.

The Person:
This will be an excellent opportunity for someone who aspires to use his or her professional background to serve for social cause in non-profit making organisation.

  • The passion and drive to promote the success and sustainability of family business.

  • Track record in membership drive or key account development in high net worth family business.

  • Able to reach out and aspire to expand the network.

  • Mature, confident, poised, excellent emotional resilience and very personable.

  • Excellent relationship management capability at two levels.

  • Excellent inter-personal ability - able to engage and influence both internally and externally in a culturally diverse environment.

  • Strong relationship management as a marketing function - able to develop and deploy relationship management and networking strategy.

  • Good general management ability including strategic and operational planning and review, execution, financial and risk management, people management and development, and being hands-on.

  • Collaborative and service leadership with good learning agility in a fluid dynamic environment and high integrity.

  • Willing to travel, especially in the region.

  • Excellent communication skills with high proficiency in English. Mandarin speaking preferable but not mandatory.

Qualifications and Sector Experience
  • Degree holder or higher in Marketing, Finance, Business Administration.

  • Careered in private banking in key account development and relationship management for high net worth family business will be ideal.

For applications, referrals or further information:
Interested parties are most welcome to contact Irene Yeung, Human Resource, FBN Pacific Asia Chapter at +65 6411 9809 or +65 6411 9800 or they can send their CV to directly to Irene Yeung at ireneyeung@imcpaa.com. All information will be handled with STRICTEST CONFIDENCE.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Larry Hurtado in Singapore 2009

The Chen Su Lan Lectures 2009
Knowing God: New Testament Perspectives

8pm - 9.30pm

29th & 30th April 2009 (Wednesday & Thursday)

Chapel, Trinity Theological College, Level 4

About the speaker:
Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology, the Director of the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins, and the Head of the School of Divinity at Edinburgh University.

I've attended Hurtado's lecture in 2007 at Singapore Bible College. And am looking forward to hear him again.

Guessing over New Creation Church's Great Commission

New Creation Church's collection of $19 million in a day has caused some to wonder. One of these is Mr. Ong Yong Shun. He wrote,
"Instead of spending millions of dollars on the complex, how about building a church with an attached world-class library that houses Christian writings, which can be used to spread the word of God?

Alternatively, New Creation could have chosen to build a clinic and offer free consultations to the needy. After all, Christianity is fundamentally about helping the needy. Such a clinic could help hundreds, if not thousands, of needy Singaporeans.

Of what use to Singaporeans, Christian and non-Christian alike, would a new shopping centre be in an already-saturated retail scene?"
More to imagine how much can $19 million do. Those who support NCC's project try to justify by invoking practical and logistic reason. But I think the root problem is not they don't know how to manage their money, but they don't know what is a church and the gospel. They think the gospel is all about God's grace saving our souls from sin and death. Period. To them, a church is just a place for people to gather, sing praise and worship songs, pray, and listen to Joseph Prince, so that our souls can be saved. This is of course nonsense.

One of the things they can do is to endow $2 million to establish 2 professorial chairs. They can name it after them:
New Creation Church Chair of Christianity and Science

New Creation Church Chair of Public Theology


Joseph Prince Chair of Theology and Society
But of course that won't happen. Or at least not in the near future. Partly because the church has no concern over theological education or harbor hope for the future of the wider Christian community in the long run. Their only trusted teacher is their senior pastor. And they expect Rapture to happen anytime soon. And when that happened, the faithfuls will zap to heaven leaving their clothes behind. So no point thinking too far ahead. What's important is to bring more people to Joseph Prince. To be baptized by him. That's their Great Commission.

Prayer as it can be

I came across Ben Myers' quoting William Stringfellow's view on prayer. I'm convinced to read Stringfellow.

The event of prayer, certain acts called prayer, the very word ‘prayer’ have gathered such ridiculous associations. That is not only the case with the obscene performances, which pass as public prayer, at inaugurations, in locker rooms, before Rotary luncheons, and in many churchly sanctuaries, but also the practice of private prayer is attended by gross profanity, the most primitive superstitions, and sentimentality which is truly asinine…. When I write that my own situation [during my illness] in those months of pain and decision can be described as prayer, I do not only recall that during that time I sometimes read the Psalms and they became my psalms, or that, as I have also mentioned, I occasionally cried ‘Jesus’ and that name was my prayer, but I mean that I also at times would shout ‘Fuck!’ and that was no obscenity, but a most earnest prayerful utterance
(A Second Birthday, pp. 99, 108-9).

I've had a fair share of most earnest prayerful utterance.

New Creation Church's perception on 'Miracles'

On Feb 15 2009, New Creation Church and its congregation of 22,000 managed to raise $19 million for their new building project which costs them and their business partner CapitaLand about $1 billion.

And guess what was the church’s theme on that particular Feb 15?

It’s “Miracle Seed Sunday.”

What does that mean?

The Straits Times, dated 11 March 2009, p.B2 has the answer:
…‘Miracle Seed Sunday’ is a day when the church’s members “sow a seed, expecting miracles.
‘Miracles’ or ‘mighty works’ of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament are God’s techniques to establish Christ’s kingdom on earth. Jesus’ miraculous signs (eg. healing the sick and feeding the poor) were performed to serve like divine signature that authorizes his ministry. In other words, the purpose of miracles is to vindicate Jesus in his works and words.

Anyway, if your church having problems raising funds, you may want to learn from NCC. Try having a thematic day. And better if the theme has something to do with ‘miracles’. Only by this unambiguous way your congregation will get your message that God’s ‘miracle’ comes in millions of dollars.

Perhaps your fund-raising campaign is not explicit enough and often leaves your congregation in ambiguity, not knowing how or what to contribute. And by adopting NCC’s approach, it will then become overtly obvious to your congregants that Christ’s ruling over the world and our lives is manifested through financial gain. This way will get the message across much clearer.

But wait a minute, so ‘miracles’ are not acts that heal the sick, cure the blind, feed the poor, or bring hope to the hopeless anymore? It is about raising fund to build a $1 billion cultural and entertainment complex now?

I wonder who are vindicated from this newly defined ‘miracles’? Definitely not Christ.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jurgen Moltmann on 'Freedom'

"Normally we say ‘freedom’ is ‘free choice’. So we have a subject oriented understanding of freedom. I can choose this and I can choose that. But this is a limited and poor understanding of freedom. There is also a social side of freedom. I feel free when I’m accepted and people know me and I accept other people. You can make the experiment yourself: Where do you feel free? In a supermarket where you can choose whatever you want, but not even the cashier is looking into your eyes? Or in your neighborhood where they know you and you know them? I think the real feeling of freedom is where people are accepted and accepting other people."
(Jurgen Moltmann, Lecture at Trinity Institute's 37th National Theological Conference, 23 Jan 2007)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Views on G.K. Beale's view on Scripture

I haven't read G.K. Beale's book and am already puzzled over its blurb. Yet I plan to get it, so while looking for reviews I came across these:

James McGrath posted his disagreement with Beale, suggesting that,
Beale is wrong. Inerrancy is dying of natural causes, or perhaps to choose a better metaphor, it is being eaten up by dry rot from within because it is inherently diseased in the very fiber of its being, in its very bones...

Beale's interest is not in doing justice to questions of ancient and modern cosmologies and the Biblical context, but of defending his view of Scripture at all costs.
Art Boulet, a student at Westminster Theological Seminary, comments,
I wouldn’t recommend Beale’s book to anyone unless they have a lack of something to blog about.
Add to that I've also listened to the panel discussion with Beale at the Reformed Forum. Contrary to the two reviewers above, the panel holds a high view over Beale's work. And I've learned from the discussion that Carl Trueman thinks that B.B. Warfield's exegesis on 'inerrancy' is still unsurpassed. Of course, I did raised my eye brows. Both sides to be sure.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Theology & Clubbing Culture 2

Taking cue from the previous post that looks at the clubbing scene as a re-creational cultural artifact established within the wider secular culture, we are here exploring further the social aspect of this phenomenon.

It was about 12am and there was a long queue at the sidewalk leading to the entrance of a well-known club at Clarke Quay. And to save the trouble of queuing, I phoned AW to inform her that I was already at the entrance and that the queue was long. In a couple of minutes AW together with her client came out to escort my girlfriend and I in. Apparently AW's client is a banker and a patron of the club. So we were saved from queuing and paying the cover charges.

When we were in there, AW introduced us to the rest of the bankers and her boss. We gladly exchanged our name, handshake, and smile. I have met some of them previously. Each of us was given a glass of vodka cola before toasting a communal sip. Accompanying our toast was some of the latest R&B songs blasting off from the speaker hang over the ceiling. After the toast, each of us made polite small talk to each other; as if to ensure each other that everyone is accepted around the table since some of us met for the first time.

If we replace the vodka cola with red wine (or red-syrup if you are a Methodist), add some pieces of bread along the toast, and switch the R&B music to some 19th century hymns, you’ll think that we were celebrating the Eucharist.

As you can see, the fabric of clubbing is social connectedness. It’s a space for more than ‘to see and be seen’. It’s a space for interactions. A friend invited me to club during the recent Chinese New Year. I asked her whether will it be all right if I bring two other people along. She replied, “Sure, the more the merrier.” I think she is right. Interaction is part of the gist of clubbing.

It's the sense of touch. In a real city… you walk. You brush past people. People bump into you… nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much. That we crash into each other just to feel something.” (said Graham in Crash)

Clubs provide that sacred space for interactions and hence reduce the need to “crash into each other just to feel something”. And such interaction gives a sense of aliveness to those who are “in a real city”. If the real city is filled with alienation, restrictions, mundaness, and boredom, then this surreal space affords us the sense that our lives are nonetheless still interesting. Making us aware that we are still alive.

For those who met for the first time, our circle of friends is enlarged. If we are with known friends, our friendship refreshed. If we are with clients, the rapport is built up. Even those who patronize clubs as a way to escape from their problems feel liberated, at least for that moment, in that space. Overall the individuals’ social connectedness is being activated and expanded. The environment, the breeze, the music, and the vision available in the club uncover the perichoresis (social connectedness) of the divine Trinity in a surreal way.

Perhaps the second person of the Trinity has figured this out 2000 years ago. And that might explains why he attended and organized parties with people from different layer of the society. It might also shed further light on the use of wine in the first Eucharist! Could that person attempted to provide a similar surreal space to establish social connectedness with his friends through parties, wine and food? Was he trying to activate and expand the perichoresis among themselves, so that in a way to share the social realism of the Trinity?

It is not too extreme to say ‘Yes’.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

I've come across this short post on Christian's view on the Oscar at Gospel & Culture Project. We all know that Oscar is an event that catches global eyes. Those who don't usually watch movies will perhaps watch a few Oscar winners just out of curiosity. But is there a paradigm for us to look at this event in a Christian way?

The post has:
First, we should note the importance of popular culture. It is a well we come to not just for relief from the world, but as a means of entering into the world. Largely due to their impermanence, media like cinema are important to us as a means of embellishing. They enable us to imaginatively try out behaviors, life experiences and outlooks.

Secondly, the battle for hearts and minds is being won largely through portrayal, not propositions. From Will & Grace to Milk, attitudes toward behaviors such as homosexuality are shifting significantly as audiences identify with characters that embody specific lifestyles. Meanwhile,
the church continues to behave as if the game is happening more or less within its walls.

With a few exceptions, apart from reactionary, demonizing rhetoric, entertainment culture continues to be treated as if it is not serious and therefore not worthy of the church’s attention.
We fund missions and ignore the global proliferation of media content shaping the souls of every people group on the planet. We decide better just to leave it alone. (Bold added)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

One theologian who walks the talk

Rowan Williams is famously known to the public as a controversial figure because of his stance over the internal struggles facing the Anglican Communion. On the other hand, he is a noted theological giant who has stimulated a number of significant discussions within the Christian academia. And this is a lesser known fact about him:

Whilst chaplain of Clare College, Cambridge, Williams took part in anti-nuclear demonstrations at United States bases. In 1985, he was arrested for singing psalms as part of a protest organized by the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament at Lakenheath, an American air base in Suffolk...
(From Wikipedia. This event is found in Rupert Shortt's book too.)

Crazy people like this inflames the craziness in me.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Andy Crouch: The Sage of Culture-Making

Andy Crouch's book 'Culture-Making' won Christianity Today's book of 2009 for Christianity and Culture. And truly the book deserves it.

This book does not teach us to interpret culture and then leave us to live Puritanical lives or retreat to our religious ghetto (which is the usual implication). It helps us to really engage cultures.

I know this is not something new because there are many other books on worldview already suggesting that. But it is not a book that tackles the worldview questions (Who are we? Where are we? What's the problem? What's the solution?). At best, those books on worldviews help us to read culture but doesn't leave us clues how to cultivate and create cultures.

Besides commenting on the blindspot of worldview books like those of Nancey Pearcey and Middleton & Walsh (p.60-63), Crouch gives a more substantial analysis and proposal on how can Christians engage culture. Here are some of his wisdom:

The danger of reducing culture to worldview is that we may miss the most distinctive thing about culture, which is that cultural goods have a life of their own. They reshape the world in unpredictable ways. (Bold added, p.63-64)

The only way to change culture is to create more of it…culture is the accumulation of very tangible things…culture itself is anything but invisible… cultural change only happen when something new displaces, or to some extent, existing culture in a very tangible way. (Bold added, p.67)

When it comes to cultural creativity, innocence is not a virtue. The more each of us knows about our cultural domain, the more likely we are to create something new and worthwhile. (Bold added, p.73)

We cannot make culture without culture… The first responsibility of culture makers is not to make something new but to become fluent in the cultural tradition to which we are responsible. (Bold added, p.75)

Andy also helpfully drafted out 5 questions that we can use as guidelines to interpret and create culture. And on Culture-Making website, there is a column where the webmasters apply these 5 questions on various 'cultural artifacts' (latest one is on Lent).

The 5 questions (p.29-30):
1) What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world is?
2) What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world should be?

3) What does this cultural artifact make possible?

4) What does this cultural artifact make impossible (or at least very difficult)?
5) What new forms of cultures are created in response to this artifact?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Sze Zeng on...

Beauty is a powerful shattering force that smashes the awareness of our own existence. It then re-creates in us a new sense of being alive. It is as if you were just born, inhaling for the first time.

One scholar who walks the talk

Walter Wink is famous for his trilogy work on The Powers. And this is a lesser known fact about him:

"In 1988, Walter entered South Africa illegally, having been refused a visa, and after leading workshops in nonviolence in Johannesburg and Pretoria, turned himself in to the authorities and was expelled." (Walterwink.com)

UMNO-BN is re-banning 'God' from Christian's publication

A decree dated 16 Feb 2009 allows The Herald to continue use the term 'Allah' referring to God in their publication. But a few days ago, the obviously incapable Home Affairs Minister Syed Hamid Albar, re-banned the allowance.

Another example that shows how incompetent current ruling party is. After 50 years, they still can't handle multi-religious affair. Malaysia truly Asia??? Please stop promoting a false image to the globe. Stop lying to yourself and the world, UMNO.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Alister McGrath in Singapore 2009

Recalling History, Proclaiming His Story

Thursday, 21 May, 2009 - Saturday, 23 May, 2009

7:00 PM

St Andrew's Cathedral

About Prof Alister McGrath:

Reverend Professor Alister McGrath joined the department as Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion & Culture at King's College London, in September 2008, having previously been Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University. He has long been involved in theological education, and is the author of some of the world’s most widely used theological textbooks, including the bestselling Christian Theology: An Introduction (Blackwell), now in its fourth edition. He is in constant demand as a speaker at conferences throughout the world, especially in South-East Asia.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Theology & Clubbing Culture

One of the project my boss gave me is to transcribe a few interviews done with a group of famous Christian musicians. These musicians are committed Christians and they collaborate with Asia's who's who pop-stars. And as I was transcribing just now, I came across this remark made by one of the musicians when he recalled his clubbing experience,
[The surreal-ness that nightlife] gives me a sense of everlasting realness that doesn’t end. Everything seemed solid and exaggerated... a fake reality. For example, you can instantaneously become best friend to a total stranger in a club, and the following day, both of you remain strangers to each other. [The alcohol] makes us feel very light and easy-going at that moment but when we bump into each other in the car-park the next morning, we simply don’t recognize one another. It’s rather pathetic and superficial. (Kenn Chua)
Being someone who is interested in theology yet harboring nightlife as a recreation, I can totally sympathize with what Kenn said.

Yes, nightlife exaggerates everything. Clubbers come out in stunning outfits and make-ups. Everyone suddenly look outstandingly attractive. Blasting musics and discotheque lighting establish borders on the building's floormap. Bouncers became the territorial markers of this space. And the DJs are the high priests.

Such world has its own language and mannerism. People groove and move in patterns that only exist in MTVs. Laugher and tears come with certain rythme and tone. Handshake as greeting gesture is replaced by affectionate hugs. Public-Display-Affection is not disdained in this social circle. Everyone seem hyper-realistically happy. Everyone unconsciously submerged into this simulacra.

And you wonder how I take this as a recreation?

I appreciate this simulacra not as a space where everything are exaggerated. Contrasting that, it is a spot within the real and secular world that experiences transcendence.

In this space, music and lighting don't stay merely as music and lighting that occupies the ears and the eyes. Here, music coupled with lighting commands movement. And I don't mean only body movement. They move us away from being too obsess in ourselves. And we need such movement. Such liberation.

Perhaps it is strange but people in the club, as I observed, are transcended from cold individuals into eschatological creatures. They generally seemed more warm, friendly, and accepting. People actually smile more in the club than they normally do. And you don't even feel isolated, or worst guilty, even if you don't feel like talking after introducing yourself. The music override the awkwardness. In such space, people are liberated from excessive normalcy and hollow pleasantry. Isn't this a picture of re-creation?

Let's face it. This simulacra is critiquing the real world. For one, it shows us that we can actually do better to live with one another. Like all simulacra, this imitates reality and provides a better parallel. If there is nothing substantial about clubbing, do you think this industry can exist until now?

People craves for transcendental experiences. And it doesn't need a club owner to know it.