Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Random thoughts...

Last Sunday, a friend asked me where am I going to study. I told him, "TTC." He straight away replied, "The college teaches neo-orthodoxy."

And I went, "I have no idea."

Really, I have no idea. First I don't know what's neo-orthodoxy in its true and full color. Of course everyone knows that it is related to Barth and Brunner. And nothing more than that.

And second, I don't think the theologians at TTC are Barthians. Yes, there is a Barth expert, yet here is also a Pannenberg expert. And those who know these two theologians know that both of their theologies are very different from each other.

I just got back from Prof. Larry Hurtado's lecture at TTC. A good lecture, better than his previous piece presented at SBC a few years ago. He made a few points which I thought interesting:

  • The issue faced by 2nd century Christians was the question on God, not Christology. (And later he emphasize that Christian theologizing cannot be done without referring one to the other and vice versa. A point which seems contradictory)

  • The authors of the NT were reflecting and examining God not as an object but as a subject. Hence it's a 'subject to subject' deal back then.

  • Reading trinitarian theology into NT exegesis is anachronistic.

I have problem with the last point. And I'm too burnt to write it down now. Got to sleep...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wedding is...

I went to a wedding this morning. The ceremony was flawless, things were in place, the couple was perfect. The whole looked almost as REAL. A perfected simulacrum.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Theology & Clubbing Culture III

The most common disapproval shared among all non-clubbers on clubbing is this: the music is too loud.

Most big clubs here play R&B, Hip-Hop, Techno, Trance, and other music with fast bass beats. That means the average BPM (Beats per Minute) that clubbers encountered in clubs ranges from 80 to about 150 BPM or more.

Our average heartbeat per minute is about 60-75 per minutes, and about 100 BPM during physical exercises. I checked my own BPM when I was typing. It was about 65 BPM. So generally the surrounding BPM in clubs are faster than our heartbeat.

The effect of high BMP that we are exposed to in a contained space for a long time, like in a Trance club, is subtle but nonetheless significant.

Physiologically and psychologically our body responds according to BMP. Noticed the last time you tap your finger or toes according to the rhythm of a catchy song? Or the last time when a song with its own specific rhythm spoke right to your heart?

Or to clubbers who enjoy Trance, ever wonder why a certain dance move such as ‘Shuffle’ goes along well with the music?

If you have watched the youtube clip of Shuffle (through the link above) and think that those dancers and their dancing are weird, perhaps there is no much different with some of those found in this clip (HT: Kar Yong). The only observable difference is that the Shufflers did it with much more style. And if you count the BMP in this clip, it is no less than those songs played in clubs.

It all has to do with our created body and how it responds to stimuli. Through the right coordination of rhythm, beats, and songs, we can invoke certain physical and emotional responses from our audiences. Thus there can be intimate interaction between our body and music: Our body aroused by music.

Be it Bach or Armin Van Buuren, when we received enough auditory stimuli, we react in a controlled and expected way. It is as if there exists a synchronizing relationship in the fabric of our body in connection with music.

It seems that there is correspondence between our bodily movement and rhythm. As though the noumena world of music is apprehensible by our phenomenal mind, and resulting our expression in the form of bodily movement which converges with the noumena.

That's why a certain bodily expression (eg. classical Ballet) doesn't converge with certain music (eg. Trance). To force both in the same performance gives us the uneasy feeling that the performer is 'out-of-tune' with the music. We'll think that the dancer is stucked in her own world, dancing according to the rythm playing in her own mind or something.

And such convergence betrays the deeper structure underlying this world we occupy. This convergence also hints to us what 'aesthetic' should be like. When we see a dancer's expression blends well with the music, we judge it to be pleasant. When it doesn't, we fail it.

And the reason why the music in the clubs are in the way they are is because it serves as an invocation to convergence. And through that, revealing this deeper structure embedded within the creation. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (John 10.27); A convergence.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

SEATS has a logo now

I've managed to create a simple logo for South East Asia Theological Society (SEATS) over lunch time. I've started this group on Facebook last week and foresee myself developing it in the next three years when the academic year starts.

This group is not redundant as some might think. It's time for a theological society to come into existent in this region. This group is not merely for professional theologians. If it is, that would defeats its purpose:
  • Extends and develops theological reflection and expression in the region.
  • Engages local societies theologically.
So all South East Asians who are interested in theology are welcome to join the group.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Theology important for Christian education?

Yesterday my youth-group had 2 new members. They joined us in studying John 15.1-17. The proceeding was simply and easy. Each of us took turn to read 5 verses until the passage is read.

Then we look at the few main words and themes in the passage. Words like "love, God's glory, remain in me, etc".

In the midst of the study, one of the members raised a difficult question. And after that, other difficult questions were raised. I wasn't prepare for that. But I tried my best to share with the group my thoughts over their questions.

And in my sharing, I began to talk abstractly which resulted a few to drop their jaws. But I couldn't help it because their questions are complicated and rather abstract in nature. For eg. when they asked the perennial question on the existence of evil, I (being theologically Reformed) had to talk about the nature of the creation. And I can't talk about that without talking about it as the contingent reality which was brought into existent out of God's sheer act of love in Divine's own absolute and boundless freedom.

And from there, somehow we moved to the implications that this theology has on other religions' teaching about the world, like some religion teaches that the world is god etc.

At the end of the session, even though many questions left unanswered, I trust that the group had a good learning, including myself. We had a brief theological reflection together.

This experience confirms to me again the importance of theology in Christian education and the life of the Church. Many Christians disdain this subject for its profundity. Many others think that it is not practical. Still many others think that it is uneccesary. Some of these dissenters are seminarians! (see Kar Yong's predicament)

The bad news that I have for them is that they are damn wrong. No doubt that theology is profound, yet that doesn't make it impractical nor uneccesary.

Fundamentally theology is a distinct Christian understanding. And hence Christian education must be theologically oriented. At this point, some might argue that they are fine with theology being the content of Christian education, yet it shouldn't be 'too academic' (in Kar Yong's word).

And the following are my views on this group of people:

First, usually those who complain that theological studies in seminaries or theological colleges are 'too academic' don't know what do they mean by that phrase. Kar Yong has shown this well in the above mentioned post.

Secondly, those who complain are usually those who don't know much about the faith. Hence they feel intimidated when they realize that their faith encompasses such a wide learning. On one hand, they deem Christian faith as an easy faith that doesn't worth to be studied at deeper level. On another, they are afraid that the more they know about the faith, the less liberty they have to domesticate it.

Thirdly, those who complain are usually those who are apathethic to their surroundings, as in the socio-political & economic issues. Hence they think that the Christian faith is all about the caring of the inner souls and have nothing to do with the larger world outside the church building.

Fourthly, those who complain are usually self-contradicting. They affirm that Christian must continously learn, love, and know God. But that simply means go all the way in our pursue even if it means pouring over tomes of literatures and endless reflections over God again and again, especially so to those who are in the seminary.

Fifthly, regarding the issue of the alleged impracticality of theology. All those who complain that academic theology is impractical simply is ungrateful and take for granted all the significant things that have been endowed to them. Things like religious rights, democracy, education, equality among humankind, medical ethics, etc. All these do not came to our current world out from a vacuum. These are immediate privileges grounded in so-called academic theology to our benefit which often without us knowing it.


This paper was presented at the Lausanne Theology Working Group in Limuru in February 2007. Subsequently it is published in the Evangelical Review of Theology 31.4 (October 2007), pp. 320-330. Permission has been granted by the author to share it here.

Paper Presenter: Chris Wright, the Director of Langham Partnership International


In the original paper and in our discussion, we used the word ‘marketplace’ to refer to the public arena in a very general sense, not confined to strictly ‘market’ realities in an economic sense. We are referring to the world of work and social engagement that all human beings are engaged in. Furthermore, by ‘work’ we are not referring only to paid employment in the formal economy.

We are very aware that the word ‘globalized’ in the title was not adequately addressed, and further work is needed on a theological response to globalization as a phenomenon and as an ideology.

1. Affirmations

1.1. Bringing our faith to work cannot be confined to finding opportunity for evangelism. Christians are “Saints in the marketplace” God cares about the whole of work, for he created it, audits it, governs it, and will ultimately include it with his redemptive accomplishment. There is a misunderstanding that the secular six other days are not what God is interested, whereas they precisely are, and we are commanded to be fruitful and multiply and care for the earth.

1.2. We need a strong doctrine of creation: we are made in the image of God the worker, and work is God’s idea. This means that God can be glorified in human work. In place of a fallacious and damaging dichotomy between so-called spiritual work (e.g., evangelism) and secular work – which usually means the elevation of so-called Christian ministry over so-called spiritual ministry – we affirm a holistic view of work in which the Christian is called upon to engage in the everyday world of work because it is God-ordained and has intrinsic value. We need to overcome the secular-sacred divide.

1.3. We need a strong doctrine of redemption also in relation to the world of work. What is the role of the church in the ‘redemption of work’? The church needs to set an example of being a goodsteward of the resources the church itself has (e.g. buildings). Multi-purpose use, availability to the public as useful space.

1.4. We need to consider the workplace as in need of redemption, like humans? Can we ‘redeem the corporation?’ As with anything human, or involving human beings working together, corporations reflect the ambiguous nature of humans – made in the image of God and yet fallen and flawed. So corporoations do not only embody evil aspects, but embody many good values. We affirm Christian entrepreneurs developing companies that are signposts of the Kingdom in the Christian and creational values they seek to embody and implement.

1.5. We need to take the marketplace seriously in the teaching and preaching ministry of the church: to counter the idea that the only reason Christians enter the marketplace is to evangelize. The church needs to be pastoral and prophetic – i.e. caring for and encouraging Christian in the world of work; and addressing relevant social, economic, political and ethical aspects of the workplace in the name of Christ and the values of the kingdom of God. God is interested in what goes on at “the gate” (the OT equivalent of the marketplace today) and governs all that goes on in the marketplace. Behind the millions of hands and minds that constitute the human marketplace stands the sovereignty of God.

1.6. We recognize that human labour after the fall has become distorted, oppressive and damaging to human dignity. God is deeply concerned for what goes on in the marketplace, particularly as this relates to the dehumanizing and exploitative treatment of people, e.g., migrant work-force. Work can become dehumanizing and degrading. However this undoubted effect of the fall does not invalidate the creational value of work.

1.7. There is a need to critique the idolization of the market and the debilitating effects of global economic system (e.g., the linkage between greed and idolatry in the NT); work is part of creation and gift of God, but also affected by fall, which includes obsession with work and its demonic aspect in workaholism in western societies. We need to reaffirm the purpose of the Sabbath’ and of tithing – as a way of freeing the heart from greed.

1.8. There is a need to ensure that human dignity is maintained in the context of the labor migration. We need to bring a prophetic word against the deleterious effects of labor migration, e.g., social dislocation, marginalization, family fragmentation, dehumanized living conditions, etc.

1.9. We work out our commitment to follow Jesus in a globalized marketplace within the tension of engagement on the one hand and maintaining distinctiveness on the other. This tension is suggested by the NT metaphors of the church as salt and light in society.

1.10. The globalizing of the workforce provides opportunities for the extension of Christian hospitality to the “strangers” amongst us, e.g., migrant workers. and congregation-based ministry to these global workers who have been uprooted from their homeland and families. We need to give voice to the forgotten.

2. Issues to consider

2.1. A theology of economics is needed that goes beyond concerns for spirituality or ethical practices at the workplace. We need further Christian engagement with the academic discipline of economics and to explore how the Christian worldview is worked out within the discipline. Evangelicals have done a lot of work on a biblical understanding of economics, but it needs to be re-visited after the fall of communism.

2.2. Explore possibilities at a practical level on how Christians might engage with the marketplace – as legitimate expressions of mission. Suggestion on three different levels of engagement with economics

Consider the engine that drives the economy, i.e., the way economics is driven by the corporations; Christians might engage at that level and seek to redeem these corporations as engines of economics; micro-enterprise initiatives to help the poor
how Christians might enter the marketplace through small and medium size industries in an effort to structure the economy after kingdom principles, and in so doing create jobs.

2.3. Investigate the historical genesis of the dichotomy between the sacred and the secular, e.g., the rise of “the heresy of full-time Christian ministry.”

2.4. Investigate the principalities and powers as these relate to global capitalism. Christianity has very often, at least in the west, been part of the problem rather than being prophetic, e.g., the failure to confront the oppressive nature of modern business. Corporations can manifest psychopathic behaviour –e.g. towards employees, without conscience. Shareholders have to function as conscience, and shame the board as necessary. There should be a prophetic role for the church in this. Nevertheless, it is recognized that a Christian CEO has to take difficult decisions in fallen world and its pressures.

2.5. Investigate the nature of globalization itself – what it is; how do Christians relate to it; the social ramifications of a globalized economy and a fluid workforce; etc.

2.6. The need to bring the Christian ethical voice in the marketplace, i.e., how do we really practice as Christians in the marketplace? There is a great need for more biblical teaching on how Christians should think about their work, relate a biblical worldview to it, and shape their character as disciples in relation to their work. Christians need to ‘become good’ at the basic level, because good people will do good. Avoid ‘Christian parallel societies’, but infiltrate as good people. Avoid making ‘discipleship’ a special category of something you do in church, but rather a description of how you live your life everywhere. Shaping of Christians in the marketplace – needs more than just going to church and good teaching. Needs many trans-formative elements. So many people are ‘in the game’ all the time – making decisions relentlessly. Is there a space to practise?

2.7. Given the great demands of work in the modern world, how do we bring to bear a theology of Sabbath and rest for people whose lives are consumed by work?

2.8. The infiltration of the values and praxis of a profit-centered market into the life and ministry of the church, i.e., the issue of peddling the Gospel for money by people who present themselves as Christian leaders (“pastors in the marketplace”). We need to avoid the idolatry of the market flooding into our pastoral and missional practice and thinking.

2.9. The extent to which our typical church system is guilty of erecting that dividing wall between the sanctuary and the marketplace, and the need for a total transformation of our understand-ing of the church in the light of God’s call to worldly engagement. What are the implications for the church if one were to adopt a holistic view of life and work in God’s world? We need a theology that values Christians (as well as non-Christians) who are out there at work in the world.

2.10. Church is a community that values every individual. There are no ‘ordinary people’. And we include all who work – at every level , not just corporations – from street sweepers through all occupations.

2.11. How do we talk about the significance of work in the light of many who are unemployed? Question of definition: distinguish between having a job and having work. Many have “work” in the sense of an “informal economy” though they are without a job, i.e., being plugged into the economic system of the work. The fact that so many are unemployed raises the question of justice.

2.14. There is a need to consider the missiological implications and possibilities of the phenomenon of labour migration within the global economic system, e.g., migrant as missionary. But there are many other negative as well as positive aspects to this phenomenon.

2.15. Globalization of a consumeristic mindset through the media and its impact on identity formation, e.g., those from less developed nations being told by the global media what success is, etc.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Karl Barth on the historicity of the Resurrection

"The Resurrection is therefore an occurrence in history, which took place outside the gates of Jerusalem in the year A.D. 30, inasmuch as it there 'came to pass', was discovered and recognized. But inasmuch as the occurrence was conditioned its necessity and appearance and revelation, the Resurrection is not an event in history at all."
(Karl Barth, Epistle to the Romans, OUP, 1968, p.30. Emphasis added.)

It's OK if you don't understand the above. I read the passage about 15 times.
Perhaps this is Barth's distinctive "critically realistic dialectical" approach to interpretation and hence theological understanding.

Barth's view on the Resurrection as stated above is one of the main reason (if not the main) that placed him under severe criticism by conservative and other Reformed theologians. They wonder whether does Barth deem the Resurrection really occurred in history or not. There was this famous encounter between Barth and one of the famous Evangelical theologian Carl Henry precisely over this issue:

At a luncheon of 200 Christian leaders held to honor theologian Karl Barth, Henry rose and identified himself as "editor of 'Christianity Today'" before asking Barth about his views on the historical fact of Jesus' resurrection. Barth retorted, "Did you say Christianity Today or Christianity Yesterday?" As the audience howled with laughter, Henry countered, "Yesterday, today, and forever."

After reading Barth's statement above again and again, I can only guess it means something like this:

1. The Resurrection occurred in history as an event that ‘came to pass’.

2. In this way, it is an event conditioned by historical processes.

3. Hence it looks as if it 'came to pass'.

4. Just like other historical event, this event is ‘discovered’ and ‘recognized’ by us.

5. Yet the Resurrection’s necessity, appearance, and revelation are not conditioned by history.

6. The Resurrection’s necessity, appearance, and revelation are first the free act of God, which was embodied out of his divine love.

7. And God’s act is his own being. Came in the person of Jesus Christ: a revelation.

8. Therefore the Resurrection was first an act conditioned by God himself in his free and loving act of necessitating, appearing, and revealing his own being in Jesus Christ.

9. And such act is transcendental. Its origin is beyond and above history.

10. That means the Resurrection transcends history instead of being conditioned by it. It is not merely an occurrence that ‘came to pass’ under the condition of historical processes.

11. Therefore our appropriation of the Resurrection is in fact a divine revelation conditioned by God himself rather than our own ‘discovery’ and ‘recognition’.

12. Our 'discovery' and 'recognition' of the historical Resurrection can only be real discovery and recognition when they are conditioned by the divine revelation which is in the Resurrection itself.

13. And in this way, all historical processes are conditioned by the Resurrection rather than the other way around.

14. Hence it is not ‘an event in history at all’.

To Barth, the historicity of the Resurrection is precisely the reason why it is not historical. Hence we can't simply say Barth denied or affirmed the historicity of the event. He affirmed something different altogether: its meta-historical reality.

Does that clarify or make sense? If you have another interpretation, please share.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Roland Chia's Lecture on Organ Trade

The National Council of Churches of Singapore and the YMCA of Singapore invite you to:

A Public Lecture on

The Ethics of Organ Trading

Prof. Roland Chia

Saturday 2 May 2009

2.30 p.m. – 4.30 p.m.

Auditorium (Level 1)
YMCA of Singapore (near Dhoby Ghaut MRT)
One Orchard Road, Singapore 238824

Free Admission
(A freewill offering will be taken)

All pastors, medical personnel, leaders, students and other members of the Christian public are encouraged to attend

Prof. Roland Chia, PhD (University of London, UK) is the Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College, Singapore. He is the author of several books on Christian doctrine and ethics.

Enquiries: Ms Doreen Mohan
6336 8177

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Being a part of the Body of Christ

From nakedpastor:

Karl Barth on Easter

From stormface:

"The war is at an end - even though here and there troops are still shooting, because they have not heard anything yet about the capitulation. The game is won, even though the player can still play a few further moves. Actually he is already mated. The clock has run down, even though the pendulum still swings a few times this way and that. It is in this interim space that we are living: the old is past, behold it has all become new. The Easter message tells us that our enemies, sin, the curse and death, are beaten. Ultimately they can no longer start mischief. They still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought; we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we must cease to fear them any more. If you have heard the Easter message, you can no longer run around with a tragic face and lead the humourless existence of a man who has no hope. One thing still holds, and only this one things is really serious, that Jesus is the Victor. A seriousness that would look back past this, like Lot’s wife, is not Christian seriousness. It may be burning behind - and truly it is burning - but we have to look, not at it, but at the other fact, that we are invited and summoned to take seriously the victory of God’s glory in this man Jesus and to be joyful in Him. Then we may live in thankfulness and not in fear."
(Dogmatics in Outline, p. 123)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Peter A. Lillback in Singapore 2009

Calvin & The Reformation Church

Date: Saturday, April 18, 2009

Time: 10:00am - 3:00pm

Location: The Alexcier, 237 Alexandra Road #03-11, Singapore

Phone: 63330511 / Email:

Admission by Tickets, please call to reserve. $40 / adult $15 / student

About the speaker:
Peter A. Lillback is currently the Professor of Historical Theology and the President of Westminster Theological Seminary.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Facebook group set up to pray for highly paid pastors

From Christian Post:

"...a concerned believer (named Ming Liang) has started a Facebook group to gather Christians to pray for church leaders who have been accused of greed for money, fame and power.

The online group, named Heart for God, clarified that it is not a hate group, but a platform for believers to identify and list church leaders with such tendencies so that they can “pray and hope they will have the right heart for God and impact lives like never before”...

[Ming Liang] added that the high paychecks could possibly become a temptation to the church leaders."

I wonder how would Athanasius and John Chrysostom react if they see this? First, megachurch pastors' paycheck follows the standard of corporate CEOs; Second, a Facebook group being created to pray for them...

Malaysian Humor

A friend forwarded this:
Cikgu : Dengar sini baik-baik. Hari ini cikgu nak uji kamu semua tentang perkataan berlawan. Bila cikgu sebutkan perkataannya, kamu semua mesti menjawab dengan cepat, lawan bagi perkataan-perkataan itu, faham?

Murid : Faham, cikgu!

Cikgu : Saya tak mahu ada apa-apa gangguan.

Murid : (senyap)

Cikgu : Pandai!

Murid : Bodoh!

Cikgu : Tinggi!

Murid : Rendah!

Cikgu : Jauh!

Murid : Dekat!

Cikgu : Keadilan!

Murid : UMNO!

Cikgu : Salah!

Murid : Betul!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Apathy in Holy Disguise

In the just passed warm Friday afternoon, Keong Kann (KK) forwarded an email from a Christian to me. Probably a few decades old believer. The email's purpose was to discourage KK from continuosly posting and highlighting the corruption and incompetency of current Malaysian government, UMNO, on the Internet.

After writting all the bull advises and justifying them, saying that the Bible says that we should submit to authority no matter what. The email ends with this the sender's self-felt helpless remark and a meaningless prayer.

Right after finish reading the email, I replied KK, "What does the sender means by "committing" and "claiming back" this country for God?" (Censored version. Coarse language in the original).

And KK replied, "It means "do nothing" wrapped in religious gab."

Most interesting was KK's own reflection on displayed attitude carried in the email:

"How far the church has gone from David who cursed his opponents to rot in a miserable death, Isaiah who called the rulers of his day enemy of god and the people, Jesus who cursed the priests, Paul who called his opponents to cut off their dicks, literally!

If I were preaching that old message, no one would be offended if I mentioned the Cross now and then—it would be so watered-down it wouldn't matter one way or the other. Why don't these agitators, obsessive as they are about circumcision, go all the way and castrate themselves! Galatians 5:12 (The Message)."

KK is not disrespecting the sender. I would react in the same way if while I'm trying to make a change, some Christians come and tell me that their apathy and passivity to the urgent situation is the right response, and then justify that with sacred words like "Bible" and "God".

Remarks on Najib's rhetorical release of 13 ISA detainees

Najib announced the release of 13 ISA detainees when he became the Prime Minister. A move which increasingly appeared obvious to be a trick to win the people's heart. Apparently such trick was being used by his predecessors for the same reason.

From Nut Graph (written by Jacqueline Ann Surin) :

In July 1981, two weeks into office as prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad released 21 ISA detainees. As he himself candidly admitted on 5 April 2009, he thought it would be good for him. It probably was for his public image then.

...According to Suaram, under Mahathir's administration, 1,500 people were arrested under the ISA. Most notable of these arrests were the 100-plus Malaysians who were arrested in 1987 under Operasi Lalang.

In November 2003, after almost a month of being prime minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi released 15 detainees. Subsequently, however, under his administration between October 2003 and April 2009, there were 105 new arrests. (Emphasis added)

Trick or treat? It's the former!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Giving into (Holy Spirit's?) prompting...

Wednesday, I wrote about my struggle resisting to spend on the one and only copy of Karl Barth's legendary commentary on Romans. A book I have been looking for a long time but couldn't find. I don't have credit card, so can't do the Amazon magic.

Seeing my Facebook status, Steven Sim and Charlene said, "BUY."

Kar Yong, the budding NT scholar, said that it is a 'good temptation'. Asked me not to resist it.

On Thursday morning, during my "devotion", I unexpectedly came across these words from Alister McGrath,
"Barth's Romans commentary... marked the injection of a new theological trajectory into western European Protestantism... hindsight allows us to note that the foundations of a theological revolution had been laid." (p. 5, emphasis added)
That's it... Besides I've just finished listening to Stephen Tong's mis-titled 4-lectures seminar on Christology (he titled the seminar "The Eternal Christ and the Historical Jesus". It sounds more like "The Eternal Christ and the Philosophers" to me. So given that title, I conclude that Stephen Tong didn't know what he was lecturing on. And listening to someone lecturing on something he is not good at for 4.5 hours is, believe me, exhausting). So I need some fresh air, breathe in some revolution.

The (Holy?) spirit is strong on this one...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Mother beaten and her baby forced to be a Muslim in Ipoh, Malaysia

Ng Kam Weng highlighted an understated news about the forced conversion of an Indian baby into Islam by the baby's Muslim father, despite the non-Muslim mother's refusal.

From the Nut Graph website:

M. Indira Gandhi revealed that her husband used to beat her and tried to force her to convert to Islam, but the mother of three refused. One day, she said, her husband came into the house, beat her up and then took away their baby daughter...

"I have lodged three police reports about my husband's beatings and how he is forcing us to convert to Islam. Nothing was done," said Indira. (Emphasis added)

First, the evil father beats up and forced his family to convert into Islam as hobby.

Second, the evil father converted his daughter to Islam without the wife's consent.

Third, the Malaysian Police, which is under the prerogative of current federal government (UMNO/BN), did nothing even after 3 lodged reports!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bookish temptation...

Was at a local bookshop two days ago. Saw Karl Barth's legendary commentary on Romans lying on one of the shelf. It's the one and only copy in Singapore! I have been looking for this book for a while, searching every Christian & secular bookshops in Singapore and Penang. Been asking Steven Sim whether had he come across this book a few times. But he hasn't got the fate so far.

So, when I saw the book, my lustful natural instinct is to get it off the shelf and walk towards to counter with my debit card ready. But I didn't do that. Instead, I quickly ran out from the store to avoid spending on another book.

While walking out, I kept chanting the mantra of Arthur Schopenhauer, "Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents."

And you know what? Today after coming back from office, I got a letter from that bookshop in the mailbox. It's a pamphlet on their current sales. My God!

Appreciate a Past & the Future

Check out all the retail shops in the city, the newspaper/magazine stands at 7-11 and supermarkets.

Do you find that almost everywhere you go and whatever you see is telling you that you are a walkway?

A walkway! Not the models on the walkway but a walkway that grounds the different designs of latest trends which are outdated by next week or so when publishers replace the a-week-old magazines on those shelves with new ones hot out from the press.

And it doesn't confined only to clothing. It ranges from architectures to military strategies to science & technology to management skills to economic analysis to pregnancy care to copulation positions.

And strangely I find this same trend in libraries with their periodicals, quarterly journals, peer-reviews, etc. With such on-going process, the line between production and consumption is blurred. The 'latest' exists because of consumption, or consumption exists hence also the 'latest'? And this process cannot stop simply because that marks 'status quo', a word that connotes impoverishment or worse.

Hence walking life is like walking on the walkway whether we like it or not. This makes life seemed contingent and hence hopeless and future-less. But this condition is not as dim as the process wants us to believe. Contingency exists only if there is no future. Yet unless the future is in the present, it remains unforeseeable, ineffective, and ultimately irrelevant.

Any tangible and real hope necessarily requires the in-breaking of the future into the present. And thank God we had precisely that: the Resurrection.

And hence the process is now under the judgment on the basis of and by this calamitous in-breaking. The economical dynamics within the process with all the enterprises under its way is not called into any other critique but this judgment.

However, given that this in-breaking is established by the future and not grounded in the present, the judgment is not one that annihilates but one that transforms and activates. Transforming and activating in the manner not dissimilar with the tangibility, effectiveness, and, ultimately, relevance of the Resurrection itself.

Appreciate Easter.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Eschatology & Human Enterprises

The more I look at all the enterprises out there, the more it is becoming apparent that there is God. Yet not merely that God exists, we know considerably well what is God like. All humans' concrete aspiration for inteligibility, ethics, justice, and meanings demand that God be God.

Don't misunderstand that I'm advocating a Natural Theology. All enterprises includes the appropriation of divine revelation.

Once I was actively engaged in an online discussion with a few atheists at the same time. When I brought up that the searching for deeper meaning in life parallels the search for deeper understanding in science, one of them responded that my notion of 'deeper meaning' in life exists only because I assume there is such thing in the first place.

But it seemed more and more clearly that that is not an assumption. It is as a priori as science, where deeper layers of understanding of reality is being discovered every now and then. For eg. after the discovery of atom, we have the sub-atomic. And after the sub-atomic, we have the anti-matter, and so on.

Perhaps the 'omega point' of all our aspiration, which give rise to all the existing enterprises, is leading us to a 'transformed and converged frame' of thinking (T.F Torrance) that will in effect fullfills all our aspiration. A story. And in our case, an eschatological one.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

What does a Presbyterian notice in a Methodist church?

"Work Out Your Salvation"

Where's the other half!!!??

*scratching my Presbyterian head*

Stephen Tong's Good Friday Rally 2009

Internet Evangelism Day @ Singapore 2009

26th April is Internet Evangelism Day (IED) worldwide. In Singapore, there is this local IED@SG2009 conference going on. These is a series of seminars and conferences in the week leading up to IED.

IED@SG - Engaging Our Digital World

Here in Singapore we resonate with the need to raise awareness about the need and opportunities for extending Christian witness and ministry in new media spaces. In tandem with the IED we aim to:
  • Create awareness & vision for online witness
  • Share local tools and avenues for personal action
  • Connect and encourage local believers/organizations active in this space

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Thank Najib for what?

One of the first things that Najib did when he became Malaysia's Prime Minister yesterday was releasing the 13 ISA detainees.

MIC is happy with his action. Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon welcome Najib's review of ISA. Bear in mind that neither MIC or Koh Tsu Koon did anything to stop these 13 men being detained. So I don't know why are they happy and welcoming now. Just want to pretend that they care, most probably.

And the wife of one of the detainees thanked Najib for the release of her husband. I don't know why she thank Najib for that. I mean, will you be grateful to someone who came into your house, locked your spouse up for more than a year in prison, and then released him/her? Will you be thankful to such culprit?

Friday, April 03, 2009

Their arrogance...

Today I read something stupid. The book 'The Glorious Rapture' is obviously about Rapture. The representative of the book, who is also from the author's church, highly recommended the book. She said that it is her senior pastor's "in-depth studies" on the subject.

In the book the author tries to show that Rapture is going to happen. Though I think the idea of Rapture is stupid, but that's not what I want to highlight in this post.

On one page, the author wrote that because 1 John 1.5 states that 'God is light', therefore God can travel at the speed of light. The author then elaborate what does speed of light means. He talked about Einstein's theory and stuffs like time is relative to speed.

Isn't that stupid?

Psalms 18.2 states 'God is my rock and fortress'. Does that mean God is made of oxygen, silicon, magnesium, iron, calcium, sodium and all the other composition found in rocks?

And the author is a senior pastor of one local mega church. I don't understand why all local mega churches' pastors believed in Rapture and other stupid things. I heard Joseph Prince mentioned about Rapture in one of his sermon too.

And this book is a product of "in-depth studies". Mega churches have the majority of the local Christians. And these stupid nonsense are the materials and teachings undercovered as "in-depth studies" being taught to the majority. When you ask these senior pastors to read real in-depth studies like James D. G. Dunn's 2-volumes of his projected trilogy 'Christianity in the Making', they will say, "Christianity is not so 'chim' (profound) one... all the apostles were fishermen, not academicians... If they can understand the truth, we don't have to do 'chim' stuffs."

That's not only plain stupid but arrogant. They can claim "in-depth" for their own teachings and studies. Another example is that they often use 'original language' to make their teachings look profound. They will say that, "In the Greek, it is...." But when we told them things like the passive, subjunctive, 2nd aorist, middle-deponent voices of certain Greek words, they reject it as something academics and hence not their concern.

So whenever they are shown real in-depth works, they reject it as unnecessary. And you know what's the worst? The members of these mega churches follow suit. It's alright for them to tell you something profound, but when you told them something in return, they reject it as 'chim'. WTF.

There is only one term: Neither Biblical studies or Theology

A friend recently commented on my post on 'Biblical' theology insisting that there is a contrast between Biblical Studies and Theology, while I was trying to say that there is no such contrast. But is there really a contrast for a Christian?

If you are a Christian and a New Testament scholar, you have to be well-versed in Old Testament. If not your studies on all the things happened in the NT don't make much sense.

If you are a Christian and an Old Testament scholar, you have to be good in NT. If not there can't be any Christian meaning in your studies.

And theologians have to do their work based on the Bible, something that biblical scholars do. If a theologian don't do that, he is anything but a theologian.

And when a biblical scholar discusses with a theologian over issues, say homosexuality, they have to discuss the interpretation of the Bible. Their contention that is grounded over what that passage means is essential for the discussion.

Hence, it is not an issue where the biblical scholar argued from Romans 1 while the theologian argued from psychology. If that's the case, the theologian is not doing theology but psychology, making her studies un-Christian. Why the need for theologians if we can learn from the psychologists directly?

On the other hand if a biblical scholar thinks that theology only stemmed from the Bible alone, then she is just doing history, not biblical studies, often making her studies irrelevant. What does someone who lived more than 2 millenia ago has to do with us?

Thus the theological discussion is always a negotiation between our understanding of the Bible and our understanding of everything else. I know that if I say that there is only biblical studies or theology, I will be making either one side unhappy. Hence I chose to make both sides unhappy or at least no qualms. I'm suggesting a familiar and historical term to categorize this enterprise: Divinity.

And the best part is that this term helps to make clear what do M.Div, B.Div, and D.D mean. :)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A guess on hell

This afternoon while I was on my way, I suddenly thought of 'time', 'space', and 'matter'. And because of that I thought about an alternative reality which seems like hell to me.

Could hell be a world where its creatures have the ability to create time and space but don't have the ability to uncreate them? Add to that they also don't have the ability to create or uncreate matter.

For a moment, imagine you have the ability to create space. Imagine both your palms holding each other. And now slowly, you separate your palms away from each other horizontally. As the palms move further away from each other, you see the space in between both palms, right?

Did you just created space? Nope. All this while both your palms already taken up space. As you move, your palms are just moving along the already existed space.

Now imagine you have the ability to create space. You are holding both palms together in your house. And now you focus your energy to create space when you separate your palms. And as both palms going further away from each other horizontally, you see a bubble-like thing being formed in between both palms. The further your palms are from each other, the bigger the bubble gets.

Now inside the bubble is a new space. And when a new space appears, the existing space need to give space to this new space. So as the bubble grow bigger, you realize that everything around you move further away from you. If the diameter of the bubble is 20cm, you find that the computer, the table for the computer, the chair, the fan, and everything around the bubble move according to the diameter of the bubble. That includes your hands which is holding the bubble.

Let's not talk about time yet, but you get the idea of how such ability will make life like hell? In hell, there is no forgiveness. And whenever you feel frustrated with someone, you create a space between you and the person. You don't want to see her or have anything to do with her. So you literally distance yourself. Say 10 meters. And let's say you frustrated by 20 people in a day and you get really upset and don't want to have anything to do with these 20 people for the rest of your life. So you created 10 meters space from all these 20 people. And everything around you just get further away according to the total diameter of space you created.

And as days go by, you continued to get frustrated by different people, so you continue creating space from them. The longer you live, the more space you create.

Now let's say you also have the ability to create time. That means you can determine how long you live. At first you think that since you can create space to evade from others who made or might make your life difficult, you would love to live longer. So you create more time for yourself.

And as you create more space, you create more time because you just can't be bothered. But the low point is that you cant uncreate those space and time that you have created. And you are not the only one able to do that. Everyone able to create space and time without the ability to uncreate them. Add to that, everyone don't have the ability to create matter. So you can't create things or food or whatever else. And everyone keep creating space and time every hours. What kind of a existent would that be?

Soon you won't even know that you are alive or existing.

Without forgiveness, there is space and time and, perhaps, nothing else. Not even your own consciousness of yourself.

Good news from boss

I've tried resigning from my current job a few times in the past but didn't really succeed. The last time was early this year. But my boss asked me out for lunch, and we asked me to stay.

Yesterday I emailed my boss again, telling him that I'll be going away for real this time. Just now before he left the office, he said, "This time I won't stop you. I can't stop you." That's because this time he knows where/what am I going/doing after resignation.

It's great to get blessing from boss when you are in a Christian organization. In the secular world, it's very easy. You just dumped your letter and start handling over your task in 2 or 3 weeks time. But in a Christian organization, we are all brothers and sisters. When someone resigns or being hired, it is more like a family matters than the corporate style.

Hence I can leave my current job with my colleagues and boss' blessings. And I continue thanking God for all the things this wonderful company has given me.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Nothing such as 'Biblical' theology, I think...

A few weeks back I had a chat with a seminarian friend. He said that he is into 'Biblical' theology. That simple remark got me thinking what does it really mean when we use the term 'Biblical' theology?

Christians like to peg the word 'Biblical' on everything, as if those things being named 'Biblical' would sound more Christian. Hence we have 'Biblical' preaching, 'Biblical' science, 'Biblical' education, 'Biblical' sex, and so on. It is as if a sort of name-baptism that elevates a certain practice as more conforming to the Bible than others. So we always hear, "That is not Biblical... this is more Biblical..."

So many Christians who study theology are tempted to do the same to theology. They attached the word to their preferred theology, as if legitimize that particular theology for them to follow.

But in a more serious discourse, the term 'Biblical' theology is not as clearly defined or understood.

It has 2 very different meanings:

1) The theology of the Biblical authors which represents the real knowledge of God.
2) The theology of the Biblical authors which are not necessary real knowledge of God. Their theology are their own reflection or guesswork of God.

Those, like my friend, who think that 'Biblical' theology means (1), then usually their understanding of 'Biblical' theology consist some form of historical-redemptive or salvation-history reading of the Bible. That means they read the Bible as having a whole with the Old and New Testament connected and expounding on many same themes; providing data of how God dealt with the world particularly through Israel. This approach are seen in works of Gerhard Von Rad, Geerhardus Vos, G.E. Ladd, Bruce Waltke, etc.

Stance (2) is very different from (1). This approach doesn't assume continuity or connection between the books canonized in the Bible. In other words, this approach does not recognize the canonical status of the Bible. Hence what we find in the Bible are various reflections of individuals with their encounter with God.

Neither of these approaches are less 'Biblical' because both their investigations are based on the Bible. So I think the problem is that we don't have a 'Biblical' theology. What we have is theology, simply. And by definition, Christian theology has to take the Bible as its source and foundation. So to say that a theology is 'Biblical' is performing a redundancy. But if you seriously dying for an adjective, just add 'Christian' at the front: Christian theology.