Friday, May 22, 2009

Life's juncture and Divine's faith

Recently a friend is going through a major transition in her life. She is anxious over the next phase of her life becoming back a full-time student after having been working for 2 years.

She said that she need to be maintain her faith in God that everything will be taken care of, yet she is honest to admit that her faith is weak and often she is doubtful towards God's sovereign goodness over not only her life, but life itself.

At such juncture in our lives, we encounter situations where we realize our faith is struggling and our doubt in God is crippling. The goodness of life itself is being questioned. Is there any point in all these things? Is there a point to live? And such sentiment makes us lose the vision for living.

BUT the reality of God is not measured by our faith or the degree of trust we have on him. God's mysterious working and power are not subjected to the standard of our faith.

God remain as God no matter how strong, weak, or superficial we relate to him. Even when we don't have faith in him, God's faith in us remained.

Some say that we are justified by (our) faith. It is as if that our faith moves God, but what happens when we don't have faith? In such times, when our faith is absence, God's faith is not. We are justified by God. And that's what really matter after all: God is God. And that's the point of living.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tiresome Traveler

When dawn's first light outshone the night,
It invited the sight of the tiresome traveler;
Marveled was she on that midnight flight,
Gazing into the dimly lighted sky,
Can't help but to recall a deeper sigh.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Surprised by my collection of Alister McGrath's works

Only the past few days I realized that I have a few of Alister McGrath's books:

A Passion for Truth
T.F. Torrance: An Intellectual Biography
The Genesis of Doctrine
The Twilight of Atheism
Christian Theology: An Introduction (4th Edition)
The Order of Things: Explorations in Scientific Theology
Doubt in Perspective: God Is Bigger Than You Think
The Science of God

I'm not a conscious fan of him except his work on Scientific Theology, so it's rather surprising that I have collected many of his works.

In fact, I'm looking forward to acquire his 3-volumes of Scientific Theology and his future 3-volumes of Scientific Dogmatics, besides his latest two books on Natural Theology and Fine-Tuning. If that happens, I'll have 16 books by him. It's just weird that I'm not a die-hard fan yet have many of his works. Compared to my collection of N.T. Wright, only 6. Rowan Williams, only 2.

Hence my collection of McGrath's works are more 'theme-driven' rather than 'fan-driven'. That means I bought his works because of certain themes that interest me. I didn't buy because I like him. But as I read his works, I do feel more and more inclined to his thoughts.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A response to a 'wave' picture

There is a cry that we can't ignore,
That reaches the shore of our soul,
Our aesthetic senses are provoked,
We can't deny but to behold.

The cry from beauty;
Our cry for beauty;
When both cries meet;
Beauty unveils its peak.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NT Greek is done with.

I have finished my NT Greek course. This morning's three hours exam marks the end of the course. I'm relief.

Though relief, I'm still being haunted by a horrifying question which was reminded by a friend yesterday, "What will you do after you get the degree?"

"Honestly," I replied, "I have no idea. I just follow my passion. Up until now, what I know is that I need to complete my studies."

And I think that's fair. I am deprived of the privilege of people like St. Paul or Ezekiel or even Jonah. To me, the idea of 'vocation' has to be flexible and ever-changing given the changing needs of each different situation and context. And this is especially true if you are into theology.

As I've hinted previously I'll be majoring in the discourse of the relation between Christianity and the sciences given that this is still an under-developed subject in this region.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Engaging the "Public Square"

An email I sent to my networks:

I noticed that many of us here in the network aspire to engage the public sphere. And many of us recognize that we are ill-equipped. I think a good starting point for those who are so inclined and think, is to re-look into ourselves by asking penetrating questions regarding the whole idea of "engaging the public sphere".

Below are some views which I deem relevant for us to consider:
1) Anyone who wants to engage in the public square MUST understand the consequences involved. One is deluded to think that the engagement in the public square wouldn't invoke all kinds of criticism, responses, and abuses. It is precisely the nature of the square being "public" that all kind of people are there, and thus it is not a "safety" haven. There is reason why prophets & messiahs are killed.

Yet, I'm not saying we have to be "confrontational", I'm asking some preliminary questions before one simply decided that the whole business of engaging public sphere as ROMANTIC as inherited from the American Evangelicalism. Engaging the public is far from romantic.

2) Given the nature of the engagement itself, we need to prepare for uncertainty, defeat, lostness (of wealth, family bond, health etc), loneliness, persecution, and insecurity. One's allegiance and comfort is found only in Christ.

3) On "as shrewd as serpent", I think the entire AWARE saga shows that there is none public Christian intellectual in Singapore. Or he/she is still hiding. Given all the resources and facilities of seminaries, universities, and churches here, I am surprised that none spoke up. The only one that spoke up was John Chew. And he was just playing the diplomatic games.

On the other hand, I read Christians who wrote to newspapers/website responding to AWARE saga with the opening line like "I'm a Bible-believing Christian for XX years..." (example) Honestly this is a LAUGHING STOCK. As if that means anything worthwhile in the "public square".

So re-think what does it mean to engage in the public square. And prepare for it emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Remember the great Christians then and now who have went down this path: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Martin Luther King Jr., William Wilberforce, Walter Wink, Karl Barth, Rowan Williams, Desmond Tutu etc.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Quote by John L. Nuelsen

From here:

John L. Nuelsen (1867-1946), a German American who moved to Germany in 1912, was the leader of the Methodist Church until 1936, and during that time collaborated extensively with the Nazi regime. Nuelsen frequently wrote articles praising the National Socialist policies toward religion, and even toured the United States in support of Hitler's regime. He saw it as his duty to defend his country in the international arena.

Although Nuelsen spoke positively of Hitler's Government, he did not agree with many of its policies, and seems to have stopped short of endorsing an alliance between the Church and the Nazi State. In 1936, at the first meeting of the German Methodist Episcopal Church, Nuelsen took the opportunity to warn of the dangers of collaboration with Hitler: "And should it happen," he said, "that the state should act in ways that are manifestly anti-Christian, then a free church is more at liberty to raise its voice in obedience to God's word. We shall not rush into martyrdom, but neither must we seek to escape it by entering weakly into compromises born in cowardice. The calling of a free church includes a special calling to witness, and thus also to be a church of martyrs when that is necessary."

1 Black Malaysia

(Picture from Sivin)

Return Perak to the people! No to ISA!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

National Council of Churches of Singapore's Statement on Christians & AWARE

NCCS' (National Council of Churches of Singapore) statement in respond to the AWARE saga (emphasis added):

The National Council of Churches has been following the recent events related to AWARE. We are concerned that religion has been dragged into the unfortunate situation. The matters related to AWARE should be solved by its own members. We do not condone churches getting involved in this matter; neither do we condone pulpits being used for this purpose. Our member churches are not involved in the present saga. In fact, our heads of churches have very recently reiterated to their clergy the standing instruction on the proper use of the pulpit.

This does not preclude individual Christians, like all their fellow-citizens, from contributing in matters of social concern and well-being. Nor does it preclude churches from being involved in public square discussions within the rules of engagement in a multi-religious society that Singapore is. On various occasions in the past, the NCCS has done so responsibly when called upon to give our opinions or when there was a need to add our voice. We believe that we can engage together in our common spaces in a spirit of mutual respect so that we can contribute positively to the well-being of our nation.

In this particular situation, we should all step back and give AWARE space to settle its own matters.

Archbishop John Chew, President, NCCS
Lim K Tham, General Secretary, NCCS

Church Involvement:
What does NCCS mean by not condoning churches to get involved? Not involved in what way?

Be it critically support or against the power-struggle within AWARE, can't churches make a stand or voice out concerning the saga?

Has such a socially significant issue being swept as irrelevant to churches? Unless NCCS thinks that this saga is not a social concern. If it is not, then the media must be too bored and decided to cover the saga for 2 months just for the sake of coverage.

If it is not, I wonder would NCCS need to issue such statement in the first place.

Individual Christian Involvement:
Can NCCS separates an individual Christian involvement from the churches? If the "Church" is the collective of individual Christians, then NCCS is saying that it is alright for individual Christians to involve as long as he/she doesn't do that in a group or though an explicitly Christian institution.

And that seems rather anarchistic and an discouragement to possible communal efforts to engage the public. This in turn contradict NCCS' own objectives:

(v) Through mutual consultation and action to form Christian public opinion and to bring it to bear on the moral, social, national and international issues of the day, particularly those which may affect the life and welfare of the people of Singapore.

The statement betrays NCCS' short-sightedness by its over-looking and underestimating:

  • the social implications of this saga which affect the lives and welfare of people.

  • the political dimension of God's kingdom and Jesus' word and work.

  • the theological position of the "Church" within the secular context.

  • the engagement between Jesus and his community on one end with the political authorities of the Romans & Temple priests on the other.

  • the further affirmation of privatisation of the Christian faith among Christians.

This post is not to suggest Christians to join AWARE and start voting according to their cause. I'm highlighting the dubiousness and irrelevance of the public statement which unbelievably produced by a national council representing the Christian churches.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Now pastors carrying machine guns?

Sam Childers working as a pastor in Sudan, saving and protecting the children from being murdered, raped, and tortured by the cultic LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) soldiers. In an interview with Christian Post, Sam was, expectantly, questioned about his method in doing mission work:

Q: It’s understandable that most Christians feel uncomfortable supporting violence. How do you explain the work of your ministry in terms of the many machine guns, ammo and other weapons employed by the staff? How do you explain a pastor toting a machine gun that is enthusiastic about killing LRA soldiers?

A: Well, I don’t condone violence at all. So that is one thing. I don’t believe in violence but at the same time I don’t believe that children should be raped, murdered, or cut up. I would have to ask the American people that you take a person that cuts up a child, or kill a child, or rape a child, if you catch a person doing that do you think that person would just stop if you just say stop? Or do you think you are going to have to fight that person? You would definitely need to fight that person or else they are going to kill you.

I look at it as a self-defense and I look at it as I’m helping God’s children. I’m not a person out to murder. It’s not that I like hurting anybody. But at the same time these people need to be stopped.

As far as a pastor with a gun, what would you call David? What would you call all the prophets in the Bible that were soldiers? A lot of people want to say that’s in the Old Testament. Well, if we are not supposed to go by the Old Testament then why do we keep reading it? And what did Jesus mean when he told his disciples when he sent them out that he doesn’t want them to take an extra coat, an extra traveler’s bag, but now I’m telling you to take an extra pair of sandals, and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. What was that all about?

Childers suggests that Luke 22.35-37 justifies the violent means as a necessary evil in his mission work. He is right that Jesus asked his disciples to arm themselves when the time for Jesus' arrest was near.

However Childers is wrong to stop there. If we read till the end of the same chapter, we find that Luke recorded the following:

When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him. (Luke 22.49-51. Emphasis added)

We find a more explicit statement in Matthew's account:

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." (Matthew 26.50-54)

I'm not saying that I have better ways to protect the Sudan children. I don't. But domesticating Jesus to justify a certain method is not exemplary and it's an evil theology. Hence it's not about Childers' military means that I have issue with, but how he justifies it.

Childers said that he view the violent means as 'self-defense'. Does he really think that Jesus didn't thought along that line when he was being arrested?

If Jesus didn't, he wouldn't had shouted, "No more of this!"

"Victims" from failed relationship..

I sympathize with those being "dumped"; Often they feel betrayed & victimized. Yet on the other hand, I wonder how many such "victims" could really see beyond their own pitiful selves to understand the dark deep pit of guilt, indignity & sense of failure their "dumpers" have to bear with them for the rest of their lives, which the "victims" don't have to..

So in the end who is more victimized?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

U think u r smart, Christians?

Due to the economy crisis, the Singapore government is giving out financial aid to the older citizens. I don't know much about these aid-packages but recently I heard one story regarding an old Christian couple who are attending the same church as my friend.

When this old couple heard about government's aid package, they sold away their condominium and bought a 3-room HDB apartment (1 living room with 2 bedrooms). And they spent a lot in renovating the new apartment with classy designs and all that.

Then they apply for the government aid. And given that they are old and the fact that now they are staying in a 3-room flat, their application is approved and they get the financial aid of about $400-800 per month (or about that amount). And they think they made a smart move.

But I don't think they are. They are being exploitative. The government's aid is to help the poor and needy. Yet this couple exploited it despite the fact that they don't need the package.

Not sure how true is this, but if it is, I'll just sigh.

Science & Christianity

Recently I have come across a few occurrences that prompted me to ponder over the relation between science and Christianity.

For eg. about 2 days ago, a friend on MSN asked me to talk to her friend who is studying bio-chemistry in the USA. Apparently this bio-chemist student who is also a Christian has difficult to trust the Bible, especially the creation account in Genesis 1 & 2.

He remarked that his studies in the sciences has shown him that the Bible is wrong, and he starts to doubt its veracity. So I asked him what is his view of the 'Bible'? Is it a book written by one author in one seating time, or a compilation of many books written by various authors in the span of centuries? He said, it's the latter.

And then I directed the talk away from discussing "the nature of the Bible" to the bio-chemist student's "approach to examine the nature of the Bible". I suggested to him that the study of the nature of the Bible has also be done in the same way he does his experiment, a scientific way: A Posteriori.

That means we approach the study with an open mind to examine the nature of the text rather than approaching it with our own assumed certainty of what it is.

On the other hand, another friend of mine who is a practicing chemist once told me that she is a scientific person and hence theology (which she categorizes as 'social science') has not come across her as similar field and something to be thought of. And we ended up discussing theology until 2am that night.

Now I have some idea what is the major subject that I should develop: Science & Christianity. So far I don't see any advancement over this topic in this region. No Templeton grants have been given to anyone here yet.