After the sharing, my boss remarked that he didn't realize I was that humorous! (I was rather sober and serious when working).
Monday, August 31, 2009
After the sharing, my boss remarked that he didn't realize I was that humorous! (I was rather sober and serious when working).
Friday, August 28, 2009
Theological slaves.. *ahem*.. I mean 'students' were carrying tables from the canteen to this place called 'The Plaza'. Some were decorating the stage:
Some art pieces were displayed to assure the students that sunshine still occurs beyond the college's walls:
Indonesians and Malaysians wore Batik shirts and dresses. I told the Indonesians that they have taken the Malay language and also the 'Rasa Sayang' song, so the Batik should belongs to the Malaysians *grin*:
One of the highlights was the performance by the college's Old Testament professor Gordon Wong and New Testament lecturer Tony Siew. Not sure why Gordon wore a luminous earing during the performance. Probably he picked that up from the ancient Assyrian, if not the Persians:
Besides singing and dancing, there was also a Muay Thai boxing competition by two Thai theological students:
The boxers were warming up with some Thai dances:
Given that these boxers were also Christians, they have to be prayed for by their coaches before the fight starts:
It was fun. We had many good laughs.
Some who have read my critique on the event might be wondering why did I help and participate in the event since I was so critical over it?
For the record, I haven't change my mind over it. I even teased the organizer that they should named the event as 'National Night' instead of 'Cultural Night' this afternoon. (Yet the song 'Saya Anak Malaysia' that I and other Malaysians sang does not represent my sentiment at all.)
Although I still have not change my mind regarding the event yet I always remember this wise saying (can't remember was it told by Sivin Kit, Alex Tang, Kar Yong, Soo Inn, Tony Siew or someone else): "When I was young, I appreciate and enjoy hanging out with smart people. When I am old, I appreciate and enjoy hanging out with kind people."
Critical must stay, but if the event is a joyous one, like this one, I don't see why I should not participate in it, and add in the joy. So I am grateful to the organizers for such wonderful night!
Norwegian theologian and pastor Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, 48, was elected 7th general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Thursday 27 August during its Central Committee meeting.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Ps. Kong Hee preached in that morning. That was probably the fourth or fifth time I heard him preaching. The first time was in 2002 when I attended a conference at Kuala Lumpur, where he was one of the invited speakers. When I came to Singapore, CHC was one of the first church that I visited. So there was not much surprises or unfamiliarities to be encountered.
Before the sermon, there was a presentation of the works that CHC is currently doing overseas in India and Sri Lanka. One of their project is to build a school in a rural area to educate the children. We are told that these works are part of CHC's carrying out the 'Cultural Mandate'. In the middle of the presentation, Ps. Kong asked the congregation to say to those sitting besides us, "Knowledge is power." So I turned to my neighbor waiting to hear the Foucaultian aphorism. My neighbor said it. Then I replied, "Christ is power."
Ps. Kong preached on the meaning of each of the five smooth stones that David picked to fight the Goliath. They were the stone of 'past', 'prayer', 'passion', 'persistent', and one more which I have forgotten. The sermon reminds me of exegetical method applied by the Alexandrian school in the first few centuries.
After the service, we were invited to one of the conference room for a dialog session. The host was Rev. Wu Yu Zhuang (a.k.a Goh Yock Tuan, Mark). He welcomed us as students from, "Trinity Bible Seminary."
One classmate curiously asked Rev. Wu what is his own thoughts of Ps. Kong?
Rev. Wu replied, "To me, Ps. Kong is an apostle."
"What!? Do you mean an apostle like those who have seen Christ?" sought the classmate.
"I do not want to go into a theological discussion over this, but Ps. Kong's work as a missionary and pastor is like an apostle," answered Rev. Wu.
Then another classmate inquired how does CHC ordains someone to the pastorate. Rev. Wu explained that there are two different levels in the pastorate. One is a 'pastor' and the other higher level is a 'reverend'. Those who are ordained to the pastorate will be given a 'pastor license'.
Following the question,"Then what are the requirements for someone to be ordained in CHC?"
"Theological education is not compulsory for ordination. Ordination is based on the evaluation of the person's performance in the church's work and his/her spiritual life. We emphasize on 'relationship'," Rev. Wu clarified.
"Who carry out the evaluation?"
"Ps. Kong and the church's board," affirmed Rev. Wu. (Earlier on, Rev. Wu also remarked that the church's board consists of those who are also the disciples of Ps. Kong.).
When my turn came, I asked, "Since the distinctiveness of CHC is to be relevant to culture, and Ps. Kong said that the church is committed to the 'Cultural Mandate', what then is CHC's understanding of the 'Cultural Mandate'? And how does the church measure 'relevance'? Is it by the church's attendance alone, for eg. the more people who attend the church, that means the church is being culturally relevant?"
Rev. Wu replied that CHC is being relevant to culture by the casual clothes the pastors wear, the persona style they adopt, the contemporary worship songs CHC uses for church's service.
I have no doubt that the pastors and church workers wear nice clothes. Yet those are not street casuals. More like pop culture sort of celebrity attires. So to put it simply, CHC takes that being relevant to the pop culture (a.k.a MTV culture) is by make-ups and dress-ups.
At least I was glad to hear that CHC acknowledges and recognizes Trinity Theological College's credential as a theological educational institution.
Best Scholarly Book on Archaeology:
Israel’s Ethnogenesis Settlement, Interaction, Expansion and Resistance
by AVRAHAM FAUST
(London: Equinox Publishing, 2007)
Best Popular Book on Archaeology:
From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible
by ERIC CLINE
(Washington, DC: National Geographic Books, 2008)
Best Book Relating to the Hebrew Bible:
Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible
by KAREL VAN DER TOORN
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007)
Best Book Relating to the New Testament:
Romans: A Commentary
by ROBERT JEWETT
(Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007)
"...in Philippians 2 lies in the way in which God in Jesus Christ dwells in the depths, not only with but as the lowest of the low. God's characteristic exaltation of the lowest becomes a pattern in which he participates himself... God's gracious love, central to the identity of the God of Israel, not takes the radically new form of a human life in which the divine self-giving happens... [We] can say that in Christ God both demonstrates his deity to the world as the same unique God his people Israel had always known, and also in doing so, identifies himself afresh."
(Richard Bauckham, God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament, p.74-76. Italic original).
I find some lines in Michael Jackson's song Dangerous contain such incarnational expression though the object of the incarnation is different. I guess we can still appreciate such prose:
"The way she came into the place, I knew right then and there, there was something different about this girl. The way she moved, her hair, her face, her lines; divinity in motion..."
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
A Critical Review on Roland Joffe’s The Mission (1986).
During the European imperialism, the Jesuits had planted a few development centres known as the ‘reductions’ among the natives at South America. These centres functioned to evangelise to the indigenous people by educating them with Spanish’s trades and traits. Through various disruptive treaties, which hinged on the distribution of conquered land between Spain and Portugal, the Jesuits nonetheless committed to build up the native communities. Hence on the one hand, there was a group that selflessly wanted to develop the indigenous communities, yet on the other, there were those who captured, enslaved, and exploited the natives for monetary benefits.
The acute irony of these two different motivations had its climax when the Roman Catholic Church retracted the Jesuits’ works done among an indigenous group known as the Guarani. Due to the political pressures from its powerful imperialistic neighbours, the Church readily granted the colonizers the land inhabited by the Guarani. And that act led to the enslavement of the natives. Therefore all the mission works initiated by the protagonist, Father Gabriel, were jeopardized. At the end of the movie, the Jesuit missionaries were massacred along with the Guarani people by the colonizers. Such horrific situation was seen stemming from the Church and its relation to the acquirement of political authority.
The Roman Church as represented by the character of Cardinal Luis Altamirano, S.J., was portrayed as a deluded institution that prioritised its own political standing with the imperialism enterprises of Spain and Portugal rather than the lives of the Guaranis. The political muddle, which the Church has got herself involved in, has paralysed the Church’s function and purposes. One can easily imagine the luxuriously dressed high cardinals who were enjoying their wine in their cathedrals, while the colonists were massacring the Guarani. What happened to the justice and living hood the Roman Church owed to those killed Guarani people? This ironic contrast was given emphasis through the movie’s distinction of the Cardinal’s social stature on one end, and the simplistic lives of the Guaranis and the Jesuit missionaries on the other.
The narrated irony of the Europeans’ motivation led us to wonder how did the Vatican view their mission works at that time. It was the Spanish government together with the Roman Catholic authorities that sent the Jesuit missionaries to evangelise to the Guarani people. Yet when there were political disputes between the surrounding powers, the mediating ecclesiastical institution seemed so readily withdrew from her missionary works, even when those works were undergoing significant development. Are mission works just a form of religiosity, which did not really meant much to them, as the priority was given to political affluences? The history as told in the movie seems to say ‘Yes’.
The interplay between mission theology, history, and political authority should again be re-told within the Church vis-à-vis the movie and its historical baggage. God has overthrown all the authorities in the known existence by raising Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. Since then, all powers and authorities are subjected under the Christ. Thereafter Christ has commissioned his disciples to continue his mission to renew the creation by authorizing them to create the new community on earth. In other words, Christ authorized the Church for a specific mission. Yet when the Church has been given political standing in the state by Constantine and other subsequent emperors beginning in the fourth century A.D., the significance of Christ’s commission started to fade away slowly from the her sight. “Power-hungry, greedy politicians began to take over positions of leadership.” The Church did not think it worthwhile to withhold the commission of Christ, she has exchanged the authority of God for the influences of an emperor; by giving up her divine authorization, she has predisposed herself to the avarices of the mundane. Such was how the Church betrayed her own very institution. The massacre of the Guaranis and missionaries through whimsy decisions made by the Roman Church incorporation with the Spanish King epitomized this betrayal.
The movie also tried to explore the conundrum of the value and authenticity of humans. At the beginning of the movie, there was a scene of how a missionary was being murdered by the Guaranis. Later there was a scene showing a man being killed by his angry and jealous brother over the love of a woman. At the middle of the film, there was an argument over the ‘humanness’ of the Guaranis between a Jesuit and a colonizer. The colonizer justified the exploitation and slavery of the indigenous people by denying them humanness. The native was equated as an animal like a parrot. At the end of the movie were the massacre of the native communities and the Jesuits. The movie consistently depicts the bargain-able value of human lives. It is as if humanity is without authenticity, life has no real significance, and ‘humanness’ is arbitrary. The audience was prompted to wonder whether if this portrayal a constructive enigma or a mere repetitive impasse?
These constant depictions of lost humanity and the lost of humanity without providing any suggestion is the movie’s failure to answer the question it so adamantly demands. It paves no vision and leaves no clue at all. The caption at the end of the movie that narrates the continuous turmoil over the area does little in providing any elucidation. Even the quoted passage from John chapter 1 verse 5 is ambiguous. It is reported that the Jewish film critic Michael Medved deemed the movie as “anti-religious”. I would want to extend Medved’s critique. The movie is not only anti-religious, but also anti-humanity for the reason stated above and below.
No doubt the movie expands our imagination and reminds us over that particular historical period. But it has failed to cultivate or even to ignite the audience’s appreciation for humanness of human, which is the underlying subject in the story. Its inability to maneuver through its own subject and questions renders the movie ambivalent if not meaningless.
Movies with dark plot like ‘The Mission’ often do well in describing the stark human conditions; though always fall short in providing even a glimpse of direction or hope. A similar and recent example is the 2007 Oscar winner in the Best Picture category “No Country for Old Men” with its pervasive necromantic theme that the movie starts and ends with.
Often dark movies’ depiction of human’s existential deficiency may transcend from the screen to the audiences’ own experiences. But without contrasting these depictions against direction and hope, that experience stays there and eventually dies there. Such movies may resuscitate the negative sentiments or the deaths in our past but lacking the offer of resurrection to a new life leaves the audience to die the second (existential) death. That could be how one feels when one is shown too much death from the beginning until the end of the movie.
To my opinion, the resurrection element is vital in films, songs, and stories. It is this element that makes a movie or a story life-giving and worth-telling. Such can be seen in 2005 Oscar’s Best Picture “Crash”. Although the story has strong ambivalence, yet the resurrection element overshadowed it by clearly illustrating the changes and contrasts in the various characters’ lives. The movie took the audience through a journey of various level of perceptive appreciation of humanness, especially of those who socially, ethnically, and whose gender are different from us.
Christ’s own vision for ‘humanness’ able to provide such salvific element through movies and stories. This ancient message of a hopeful future and a meaningful present was vividly uttered by Rowan Williams in recent Easter, “Christianity takes it for granted that whether you succeed or fail, you're valuable. God's view of you doesn't depend on how you do, it's always the same love, always giving you a second chance. And once you let that sink in, you can face failure without fear and rage. You'll still try your best, but you're also free to see that if you can't do or get just what you wanted, you still have your dignity before God and so you still have a future.”
This vision is best depicted in ‘Crash’, in the scene where the racist policeman risked his life by rushing back into the overturned burning car to save the black woman he has harassed earlier on. Here we witness the embodiment of the appreciative sense for human lives which enables reconciliation even within racial tension. The policeman’s racism was removed by his willingness to see ‘humanness’ as transcending skin colours, while the black woman’s grudge is replaced by forgiveness and acceptance. ‘The Mission’ lacks precisely such element. The lack emptied itself of the vicarious incitement for appreciating and cherishing the humanness of different people across classes, races, and genders. After being carried through the killings, cries, sacrifices, and killings, again and again in the movie, the audience is left feeling as lost as the Guarani children that survived the mayhem; without any idea what had happened or what will.
 These efforts were approved by the 1743 decree of Philip V, disrupted by the Treaty of Madrid in 1750, severely damaged during the Guarani War in 1756, and temporarily relaxed by the Treaty of El Pardo in 1761. New Advent Website, “Reductions of Paraguay”, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12688b.htm (accessed on 5 August 2009). Jeannette Gaffney, “Dividing the Spoils: Portugal and Spain in South America”, http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1992/2/92.02.06.x.html#b (accessed on 5 August 2009).
 A similar point is made by Vaughan Robert in his essay “Between Eden and Armageddon: Institutions, Individuals, and Identification in The Mission, The Name of the Rose, and Priest” in Explorations in Theology and Film, ed. Clive Marsh and Gaye Ortiz (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 186.
 Matt 28.18, 1 Cor 15.55-57.
 David Duncan, The Constantine’s Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), 125.
 I borrowed the linguistic style of Rom 1.25-28 in constructing this sentence.
 Jugu Abraham, “British Director Roland Joffe’s “The Mission” (1986) (UK): A Script for All Seasons”, Movies That Make You Think Blog, entry posted 21 June 2009, http://moviessansfrontiers.blogspot.com/2009/06/85-british-director-roland-joffes.html (accessed on 5 August 2009). Steven D. Greydanus, “The Mission (1986)”, http://www.decentfilms.com/sections/reviews/mission.html (accessed on 5 August 2009).
 Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, 2007 (80th), http://awardsdatabase.oscars.org/ampas_awards/DisplayMain.jsp?curTime=1249414124815 (accessed on 5 August 2009).
 Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, 2005 (78th), http://awardsdatabase.oscars.org/ampas_awards/DisplayMain.jsp?curTime=1249416177398 (accessed on 5 August 2009).
 Rowan Williams, “Archbishop on Easter – Article for the Mail on Sunday,” posted 12 April 2009, http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/2376 (accessed on 5 August 2009).
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
1) Previously I have chosen to write on the 'Origin of Israel: Invasion, Infiltration, or Insurrection?' because the other three topics were already filled up when the form reached me. Hence I signed-up the third topic to leverage the imbalance. Therefore my name appears at the first under the topic. Since now the distribution is quite even, I hope this request would be considered.
2) Personally question one (Creation account in Genesis) resonates more to what I am looking forward to do: to clarify the relation between natural sciences and Christianity. I do want to take this opportunity to learn on a topic which I have not really seriously look into before.
3) I hope that this email would not imply that I am changing the topic for convenience's sake. In fact, the 'Origin of Israel' is easier for me compared to the question on creation account. Reason is that I have done some studies on this topic on my own by surveying through the findings from biblical scholarship and archeology in May 2008. I had come to conclude that we cannot ascertain with any solid affirmation on any particular mode of emergence of the ancient Israelites on one hand, yet to our current archaeological findings, we have provisional evidents that contradict some of the events recorded in the book of Joshua. In the study, I have also compared different dating method of the Exodus (besides William Dever, Niels P. Lemche, Kenneth Kitchen, Israel Finkelstein, and others, the comparison also includes evaluating the exchanges between Bryant Wood and James K. Hoffmeier in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 2007), study the different interpretations of the archaeological data pertaining to Joshua's conquest, and evaluated Norman K. Gottwald's "less dramatic" data attesting to Joshua's conquest. Attached is an informal bibliography that I used in this study for your reference.
I'm glad that Maggie granted the request this morning during the lecture's break. She also remarked that the Genesis essay is an easier one compared to others. In šāʾ Allāh.
Monday, August 24, 2009
It seems that everyone is being caught up by their neck nowadays. On my part, besides the essay, there is also an upcoming revision class this Thursday noon, which I will be facilitating. Then there is duty at the chapel on Wednesday. On Thursday, there will be a rehearsal in the afternoon and another one at night. Cultural Night on Friday. Having a presentation next Monday. A mid-term quiz on next week's Wednesday. There is still one essay evaluating the origin of ancient Israelites to b e submitted soon.
While I was busy preparing the essay at the library, Tony Siew was taking a breather away from his heavy duties. Busy time for everyone.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Richard Bauckham introducing Jurgen Moltmann:
Graham Stanton and James Dunn on "Kingdom of God":
Richard Bauckham on "The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony":
Richard Burridge on "The Gospel of John":
N.T. Wright on "The Resurrection of Jesus":
Tim Hull introducing Wolfhart Pannenberg's theology of revelation as history:
Karen Kilby introducing Hans Urs von Balthasar:
Anthony Thiselton introducing Paul Ricoeur:
Ben Fulford introducing Hans W. Frei:
Larry Hurtado on "How did Jesus become a god?":
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Ok, the pastor has a history of being a cocaine addict who now claims to be an end-time prophet. Impressive. Must be the work of the Holy Spirit, as she has testified. Cannot be human's work because human cannot transform lives, only the Holy Spirit can. Amen?
Here are his 'biblical warrants':
1. "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. " (1 Corinthians 6.9-10).
2. "Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:11).
3. "Therefore, official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God, are evil. They dishonor God, contradict Scripture, and implicitly promote damnation where salvation is freely offered." (John Piper)
4. Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados. "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:41).
5. "When asked about a seemingly random calamity near Jerusalem where 18 people were killed, Jesus answered in general terms—an answer that would cover calamities in Minneapolis, Taiwan, or Baghdad. God’s message is repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God’s judgment." (Luke 13:4-5).
And so Piper concludes,
"The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners."
Gregory Boyd disagrees. Here's one reason,
"One has to wonder why God would single out the ELCA’s discussion of homosexuality as worthy of a tornado hit while by-passing so many other serious issues. To give one example, there are over 400 distinct passages encompassing over 3,000 verses in the Bible that address issues related to poverty. Compare this with homosexuality, a topic that is explicitly mentioned a total of two times in the Old Testament and three times in the New. On top of this, the most frequently mentioned reason God judged cities and nations in the Old Testament was because they failed to care for the needy."
Phrases with the adjective 'biblical' must be questioned to curb the abuse of the term 'biblical'. It is as if when someone uses the adjective 'biblical' to justify something (in Piper's case, his interpretation of the tornado), that something has to be true. It has become like a mantra that guarantees the truthfulness of a statement.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Roland, our lecturer, said that his view is similar with Millard Erickson's Full Inerrancy. It is something like this:
"What the bible says and reports about God, human's salvation, and historical events are completely true. To say that these are true is different from saying that they are 'accurate' in the sense of modern historiography. For instance, while on the way to college in a bus, you saw an accident. Due to the severity of the accident, you were called to be a witness. In your testimony, you described that the accident involved a Honda, a Toyota, and a Yamaha motorbike. But later on, you discovered that it involved a Honda, a Suzuki, and a Harley Davidson moterbike. Your testimony of the occurrence of the accident is true though not accurate. Truthfulness keeps the big picture in tact, but not the details."
I am uneasy with this view. The example provided reveals the confusion over two different inquiries:
A. "Did the accident involving 3 vehicles took place this morning while you were on your way to college?" (Biblical eg. Did the conquest of Ai occured as described in the Bible?)
B. "What kind of vehicles involved in that accident?" (Biblical eg. How many soldiers were involved in the conquest of Ai?)
These are two different questions which require different answers. If you answer "Yes, it took place while I was on my way to college," to question A, then your answer is true and accurate (if the accident did took place).
If you answer, "There were a Honda, a Suzuki, and a Harley Davidson moterbike involved," to question A, then you are not answering the question (though your answer provides other details which are relevant to the accident, your answer does not correspond to the question. Relevance is not correspondence).
I think Full Inerrancy is basically a result of confusion between different types of inquiry. Due to this confusion, we have the equivalent dubious distinction between 'true' and 'accurate'. So I don't think Full Inerrancy help to make nuanced the concept of 'inerrancy', though it is an easy way out among those who want to give credits to historical-critical studies and the authority of the Bible at the same time.
For those who are interested in the details of Erickson's Full Inerrancy, you may refer to his 'Christian Theology, 2nd edition', p.248-265. You may read a summary of Erickson's view at Theology Matters, part 1, and part 2.
"You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."
- Anne Lamott
(H/T: Irenic Thoughts)
Thursday, August 20, 2009
And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house." And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
And Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.
This morning, the class was asked why there is this missing verse in Matthew's account while it is there in Mark's.
One suggestion given is that Mark included ‘among his own kin’ because that is a natural literary flow from Mark’s earlier portrayal of Jesus’ immediate family rejecting his ministry (Mark 3.32-35).
I think that is unlikely based on 2 reasons:
1. Both Matthew and Mark mention ‘in his own house’ in the narrative. These are direct references to Jesus' immediate family. This therefore making 'among his own kin' as again referring to Jesus' immediate family redundant.
2. Both Matthew and Mark have the incident where Jesus’ family doubted his ministry (Matt 12:48-50; Mark 3.32-35). That means 'among his own kin' is not necessary the result of Mark's literary flow. If it is a literary flow, then Matthew would have the same literary flow to highlight the same thing Mark highlighted: Jesus being doubted by his family.
Thus, I think Matthew’s lacking of ‘among his own kin’ is not because he didn’t know about Jesus being rejected by his family, nor Mark’s inclusion of the phrase is a natural literary flow.
Although the Greek word for 'kin' (suggenes) refers to 'relative', it can also means one's own ethnic group, or one's nationally akin people (Romans 9.3-4). The fact that Paul used this word to refer to ethnic/national kin suggests that Mark could had used it in the same way.
My take is that Matthew’s lacking of the phrase ‘among his own kin’ is more likely the result of the author's intention of not wanting to portray Jesus as being entirely and outrightly rejected by his own ethnic/national group, that is the Jews.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Last night my mom and I were sitting in the living room chatting about stuffs, life, etc. Then, we talked about death.
I said to her, "Mom, if ever I ended up in a vegetative state when you are still alive, please never let me go on like that; totally dependent on machines and liquids from a bottle. If I'm ever in that state, I want you to disconnect all the contraptions. I'd much rather die than being in that condition".
My mom rose from the sofa, looked admirably towards me before she proceeded to disconnect the TV, the cable, the dish, the DVD player, the computer, the cellphone, the iPod, and the Xbox, and then went to the fridge and threw away all my beer!
"... Stanley Hauerwas was at Harvard to deliver a lecture and, being there early and still need to do some preparations, set out to find the library. Not finding it he stopped a student and proceeded to ask him, “Excuse me, where’s the library at?”
The student, looking incredulously at him responded, “Sir, at Harvard we don’t end our sentences with a preposition.”
Stanley paused for a moment and then rephrased his question in a more grammatically appropriate manner: “Where’s the library at, asshole?”"
(H/T: Inhabitatio Dei)
Stanley Hauerwas has clarified:
"I have discovered that there exist stories about what I have said in this or that circumstance that is not true. It seems I was in Cambridge walking across the Yard at Harvard trying to find my way to the library. I am alleged to have stopped an undergraduate and asked, "Can you tell me where the library is at." The student responded, "We do not end sentences with prepositions at Harvard." To which I responded, "Can you tell me where the library is at, asshole." I realize this is the kind of story that seems so true it should be true, but in fact it did not happen. Of course "did not happen" may be an inadequate way to understand "true.""
(Stanley Hauerwas, The State of the University: Academic Knowledges and the Knowledge of God [UK: Blackwell, 2007), p.133, n.24.
"Ahmad Zahid, the UMNO top gun who was sent with a mandate to win over Penang from Pakatan Rakyat back to UMNO, even said that,“to [UMNO], [Rohaizat] is our best candidate for the by-election“."
WHAT?!! The best candidate from UMNO is a criminal? Well, should that be surprising in the first place? If a criminal is the best candidate that UMNO has, what does that tell us about UMNO's rest?
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Lectures and panel discussions on the life of Buddha, a brief history Buddhism, Buddhist teachings, application of Buddhist teaching in daily life.
Entry Qualifications: Age above 16 and fluent in written and spoken English.
Duration of Course: 3 years with 2 semesters per year.
Date: Every Friday from 6th of March 2009
Time: 8.00pm - 9.30pm
Venue: Singapore Buddhist Federation, 59 Lorong 24A Geylang, Singapore 398583
Tel: 6744 4635
Fax: 6747 3618
Fee: Adult $50; Student $25
Certificate of Completion: Certificate of completion of the course will be issued to each participant who has satisfied the set criteria.
1. Photocopy of NRIC or Passport;
2. One recent passport sizes photo.
3. Registration at:
Buddhist Federation,59 Lorong 24A Geylang, Singapore 398583
Tel: 6744 4635
Fax: 6747 3618
Off hours: 0900 am to 5.00 pm Mon to Fri; 0900 am to 100 pm Sat
On relating religion with sciences:
"We need “radical dialogue,” when scientists and people of faith become truly open to learning from one another. Such radical dialogue would never have convinced Jerry Falwell and it won’t convince Richard Dawkins. But my research shows that most religious people do not take after Falwell, and most scientists are not like Dawkins."
Her survey results:
"From 2005 to 2008, I completed the most comprehensive study to date of what natural and social scientists think about religion. I surveyed nearly 1,700 scientists and conducted in-depth interviews with 275 of them... almost 50 percent identify with a religious label and about one in five is actively involved in a house of worship, attending services more than once a month."
Actions religious people may want to consider:
"How might religious leaders utilize the scientists in their midst? It would help for them to better mentor and involve scientists within their faith communities, which in turn would help religious leaders to better integrate science within their houses of worship. Faith leaders might also provide scientists with a forum for discussing the connections between their faith lives and their work lives, and they might invite scientists to be teachers in adult religion classes or take on other prominent roles within their places of worship. Scientists must not be required to leave behind their professional identities and ideas when they come to the altar."
During the Q&A time, I asked for clarification,"But that would be putting a lot of weight on history. Given the emergence of some known un-historicity resulted from historical studies of the Scripture, especially some of the more ancient stories in the Old Testament, how then can we affirm that God has revealed himself in history?"
Roland, our lecturer, replied along this line, "Ancient histories are very different from the modern historiography which came about in the 18th/19th century. If we adopt this modern historiography, all ancient histories would not be considered historical in our modern sense. God has revealed himself through mediation of historical events."
I think I failed to put forth my question clearly. What I meant to ask was this: If the theology of revelation is that God has revealed himself through certain events happened in the past (eg. Joshua's conquest of Canaan), then what happened if we found out that such events were unlikely to have happened because there are evidents that contradict those claims (eg. many of Joshua's conquered cities did not exist during the date of the conquest)?
Too bad, Roland was in a rush. Right after he replied, he asked the class if there was any 'final question'. When I heard that, it was proper that I shouldn't monopolize the time and gave others the opportunity to ask questions too. So I didn't get to follow up and clarify my question with him. I do not know why was he rushing while there are still 5 more minutes left after he answered the final question. Perhaps, I'll check with him at other times.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
By observing each communities' planning for the CN, I noticed that there is a deep misunderstanding of the very term 'culture'. Generally the TTC's community seems to regard something as cultural if it is rooted in some historical past. For instance, the cultural outfit of a Chinese from China is a cheongsam. But such categorization is extremely unfit because the historical past does not reflect current culture anymore. Seldom nowadays' China's Chinese wear cheongsam, if they wear it at all.
Culture is seen by Robert Redfield as "shared understandings made manifest in act and artifact." (Richard Jessor, Anne Colby, Richard A. Shweder, Ethnography and Human Development: Context and Meaning in Social Inquiry, p.61. Emphasis added).
Andy Crouch agrees, ""... culture is the accumulation of very tangible things - stuffs people make of the world... While it is certainly true that culture can have effects on us that we're not aware of, culture itself is anything but invisible. We hear it, we smell it, we taste it, we touch it, and we see it. Culture presents itself to our five sense - or it is not culture at all." (Culture Making, p.67).
So if CN is for individual students to express their own culture, which is the manifestation of their act and artifact, something that we still do, then it is nuisance to appear in some outfits of a certain historical past, and perform songs or dances which we don't actually do it anymore.
In adopting a culture from an obscure historical past that we do not anymore identify with in current and immediate time in act and artifact, we are actually grossly deconstructing the times. Not only that. Asking someone who have never wore a Baju Melayu and perform Joget to wear the attire and to perform the dance is culturally denying; Betraying the very purpose of having a Cultural Night.
There is a prevalent and unchecked presumption among TTC community that the CN is to celebrate the cultural differences among students from different countries. Given that most of the students are from post-colonized, globalized, and multicultural nations such as Singapore, China (Hong Kong and Beijing), India (Bangalore), Indonesia, and Malaysia, there are not much cultural differences to be celebrated in the first place. By presuming that there are betrays the fact that one is not yet any where near to engage and do business with 'culture'.
Are not such presumption-laden cultural event play out the analysis of Jean Baudrillard, "We need a visible past, a visible continuum, a visible myth of origin to reassure us as to our ends, since ultimately we have never believed in them... the order which our culture dreams of... could have had nothing to do with [the past], and it dreams thus because it has exterminated this order by exhuming it as if it were our own past." (Simulations, p.19-20. Bold added, italics original).
Check out these videos of cultural performance during last year's CN:
Seriously, which Singaporeans nowadays sing 'Rasa Sayang' and perform 'Dikir' dance in everyday living? Which China's Chinese dress in Hanfu and use writing brush in everyday living?
Singaporeans are listening to Jason Marz, Jay Chou, Black Eye Peas, perform 'shuffle', salsa, and ballroom dances. China's Chinese dress in t-shirt and jeans, and use pen to write. Even current China's leaders do not wear cheongsam to formal events!
I am not against CN, but very much against the distortion over the understanding of culture within the general TTC community. (Though we learn a bit about 'cultural anthropology' and spurred to be 'culturally sensitive' in our Mission & Evangelism classes, the community still having difficulty to put that to practice). Something that I have noticed even during the Orientation Day.
Instead of wanting to celebrate cultural differences which really is a fake celebration, why can't we just celebrate the given uniqueness and differences among individuals?
Unreservedly, I answered, "Those teachings and teachers that disagree with me."
The class laughed. Andrew jokingly replied that that is 'bigotry'.
If you are interested to find out more on the definition of 'heresy', the Catholic Encyclopedia has a long article on it.
My working definition of the term would be something like this: Theological heresy does not necessarily means falsehood (though it often does), but of an unprecedented paradigm of expression reinterpreting the fractional of an established common knowledge.
From this definition, one can say that heresy happened when one concentrates on part(s) of the common knowledge and neglects others, and in this way lacks wholeness. In the older centuries, 'heresy' was simply that which caused tension with an institutional teaching or that which strayed away from the general perceived or received knowledge.
Therefore heresy was much related to 'tradition' (perceived or received knowledge), and hence it can be said that heresy is that which is untraditional or unconventional. Yet it drew its source from tradition. To be more precise, it is an re-interpretation if not deconstruction. And it does not necessarily mean or lead to falsehood (for eg. Copernican and Galileo revolution).
Heresy is deem evil by many, yet this should not blind the fact of heresies' enablement for orthodoxy. “Heresy is the necessary precondition for orthodoxy, yet orthodoxy may be as much a metamorphosis (or pseudomorphosis) of the foundational religious idea as heresy”. (Rowan Williams, The Making of Orthodoxy.)
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity.
The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.
They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives.
They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.
(The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, chapter 5, dated 2nd-3rd centuryA.D., Roberts-Donaldson translation. Italic and paragraphing added).
Monday, August 10, 2009
Sunday, August 09, 2009
This morning we, the Trinity Theological College's students, were at Queenstown Lutheran Church for our Field Trip. And after the service, we were invitated to some refreshment before the dialog session with the senior minister of the church. And guess what?? The refreshment was home made Singapore Laksa!!
God knows my heart's desire, and He has provided. He knows that I am unemployed and have that craving, so He prepared this morning's meal for me (pardon the indulgence in spiritual individualism).
Ok, enough sarcasm, on a serious note, I really thank God for His mercy and providence. I was very worried previously over the finances of the studies and my survival. So far, I still haven't go through a day without food, water, bed, and clothes. To these I'm grateful. Yet God's providence posts a serious challenge. As Rowan Williams articulated, "...How do you live out gives thanks in everything? How do I live so that the message in my life communicates gratitude? Not anxiety, not acquisitiveness, not security, but gratitude. How do I live so that it's as if my face seems to be turned towards that Source of gift? And that's not easy because the world presses on us with apparent priorities and anxieties, acquisition, and so on."
Sitizen is a camp commander of a fugitive camp. He arranges at least one meal a day for each fugitive.
One day Sitizen saw a fugitive, named Cpc from the Dragon land, eating for the seventh time in a day with an appropriate meal each time. Sitizen's eye-brows raised. Naturally Sitizen became suspicion. Given the limited food available, Cpc is obliged to give Sitizen a reason for the many meals he took on that day. His reason is that his big body needs such amount of nourishment to stay functional. Indeed, he has a huge body.
The next day, Sitizen saw another fugitive, named Pap from the Merlion land, eating for the seventh time in a day with an appropriate meal each time. Sitizen became suspicion. So Sitizen asked him why is he eating so much. Pap said that his small body needs such amount of nourishment to survive. Indeed his body is tiny.
The next day, Sitizen saw another fugitive, named Umno from the Tiger land, eating for the seventh time in a day with an appropriate meal each time. Suspiciously Sitizen approached him to find out why is he eating so much. Umno told Sitizen that his medium size body needs such amount of nourishment to survive. And true to his word, he is medium-sized compared to Cpc and Pap.
So after these three observations, as a camp commander, Sitizen have to prepare a report in order to maintain the food level in the camp. And here are the implications Sitizen may draw:
A) All fugitives regardless of their sizes need seven appropriate meals each day. But so far only these three fugitives need to eat so much. If arranged for seven meals for all fugitives, there will be a lot of food wastage.
B) Something wrong with these three fugitives? Are they just gluttons? Or do they really need that much food? If so, should arrangement be made that only these three have seventh meals each day? But if they are gluttons, then such arrangement would be an abuse to the welfare.
Which implication would you draw? Or you have your own other than these two?
Let those with ears, hear... And let those with mind, comment and share.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Reason is not merely that people are more open to talk, but also we are able to interact more in chitchat manner. And because of such environment, people absorb and process information better. This is of course just my observation which is confined to my context.
Since the beginning of last week, I have been thinking about having such chitchat session in the college as a revision for foreign student who are struggling with some of the academic subjects because they are not used to listen, reflect, and talk theology in English.
At first, I doubt whether I want to do that because it is a commitment on my side. If I want to do it, I'll make it a weekly affair because that will really help my classmates. The thought was still lingering in my mind until the middle of the week.
During the Church History class' break, I went to the college's cafeteria and saw Tony Siew having his 'char beehoon' there. So I joined him, and we started chitchatting. He shared about his interesting experiences in secular universities. And in the midst of the conversation, he suggested to me that I can help struggling students to revise the subjects. I took his suggestion seriously, as that was what has been in my mind too.
So yesterday we had our first theological chitchat at the student lounge. Basically it's a revision session for two of my friends who are from Vietnam and Thailand respectively. We chitchated about that morning's Theology lecture (the only subject that I'm more confident to help). And I was glad doing it because I get to re-learn and mind-map (H/T: Sivin) the lecture myself. At the end of the day, everyone learned.
Andreas drew a good example. He said that me and another college-mate belong to the Reformed tradition, but that college-mate is at the far 'right', while I'm at the far 'left'. I replied by telling a (historical) parable.
J.D. Crossan made a provocative remark during a dialog with N.T. Wright a few years ago. From within the context of the polarization between the 'left' and 'right' in America religious communities and national politic, his remark is provocative:
"... Jesus has been exalted, maybe even to the right hand of God. (By the way, remember, if Jesus is at the right hand of God, then God is to the left of Jesus.)"
(The Resurrection of Jesus, p.26)
The point that I was driving at is that even the category of 'right' and 'left' is not clear.
Later in the evening, Andreas recounted to us about a correspondence between him and Gordon Wong, a professor of Old Testament at Trinity Theological College. My friend was in his first year and was exposed to the many facets of OT studies in Gordon's class. So he emailed Gordon to clarify some issues.
To Andreas' surprise, the first paragraph in Gordon's reply was something like this: "I don't care if anyone call me liberal, conservative, non-Evangelical, or what..."
And our lecturer in New Testament Tony Siew said about the same thing. I think the gist of these lecturers' remarks is to cultivate in students the ability to be intellectually critical and independent, without playing into the labelling games. We have moved on and over the labelling which unhelpfully inherited (from the West?).
In case anyone wonders, both Gordon and Tony are committed Christians who love Jesus and the Bible.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
About the speaker:
Too much order and red-tape, flexibility will be low, and hence creativity is limited as the space for people's creative expression is confined. Too much flexibility, order is not in place, and hence many tasks hardly are accomplished.
And if we traverse that tension to all the perennial debates between the 'transcendent' and the 'imminent', you'll find many similarity. For instance, the Open Theism debate, the Hyper-Calvinist-Arminian debate, the Scripture's inspiration debate, the Theodicy debate, the homosexuality debate, etc.
And if management is ultimately about accomplishing a task with efficiency and effectiveness, then keeping the tension in constant view will assist to chart the way forward.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Time: 14:30 - 21:30
Location: Singapore Bible College
With so many Christians living and working in the city, our spirituality must fit the dynamics and challenges of urban life. We need to learn to be "in but not of" the city. This seminar will explore several spiritual disciplines and practices that will enable us to be faithful and joyful Christians in the midst of the trials and temptations of the city. We will draw on the teaching of the Scriptures and the wisdom of our spiritual heritage in considering these spiritual practices. Particular attention will be given to the interplay of individual and corporate spiritual practices for life in an urban context. These include confession and repentance, the use and reading of Scriptures, the practice of Sabbath and the Lord’s Supper.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Gordon T. Smith is the president of reSource Leadership International, an agency that fosters excellence in international theological education. He also teaches at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada and serves as the interim preaching pastor of Tsawwassen Alliance Church, near Vancouver. He is the author of a number of books, including Beginning Well: Christian Conversion and Authentic Transformation (IVP, 2001); The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer and the Witness of the Spirit (IVP, 2003) and A Holy Meal: The Lord's Supper in the Life of the Church (Baker, 2005). Married to Joella, they have two grown sons.
This seminar is organized by the School of Theology (English) & the School of Counselling, Singapore Bible College
$60 per person (inclusive of tea, dinner and notes)
$50 per person for group registration of 5 persons and more $50 for pastors, full-time workers and seminary students.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
That's the question that I had.
There are about 5 to 7 or more theological studies institution in Singapore. The two biggest and most popular ones among the mainline churches are Trinity Theological College (TTC) and Singapore Bible College (SBC). And I am now at the former one. How did I chose?
(Assuming you had sort out the finances matters.)
Knowing what do you want to learn is a huge factor in determining which school you should go. For me, I know that I want to learn academic theology. So I looked through the faculty list of all the available institutions here. Then I started to browse through their qualifications and expertises to see any correspondence with what I want to learn.
Then I started to look out for opportunity to check out these teachers. Over the past 3 years before I entered into TTC, I have attended public lectures or seminars that had TTC's lecturers as speakers. The one that impresses me the most was Tan Kim Huat, the professor of New Testament studies at TTC. I remembered that one time that I heard him was at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church where he gave a 3 evenings lecture on Jesus' last days and his resurrection. I asked him about the weird passages found in Matthew 27.51-53. Subsequently I heard him spoke on other topics like the Bible's view on homosexuality, and others.
It is much easier to learn about TTC's faculty now as some of the lecturers are keeping blogs. The most avid one is of course our New Testament lecturer Tony Siew. The other one is our church historian and missiologist Andrew Peh. So far I know two who blog. I encourage lecturers to blog more so that potential students may find out more about the faculty while they are still choosing schools. And blogging is a great tool to communicate. I bet some of the readers of my blog now have a better picture of how's life in TTC is like.
Second, I'd check the facilities of the institution to see how good can my learning experience be facilitated. And I found out that TTC has the biggest theological library in town. A conducive environment for my desired pursuit.
Third, I asked around for opinions over the institution. And I've gathered many things about TTC. Some people warned me that TTC is a den for neo-orthodoxy. Others told me about the history of TTC that it was an institution of theological liberalism. And SBC was set up to counter TTC's liberalism. Another one asked me to be discerning should I chose to enroll into TTC. Another one told me that TTC's standard of biblical studies is not as good as SBC.
Each time I heard such remarks, I'll just put on a grin. All these comments are not conclusive and remained to be discovered.
Date: 17 August 2009.
Time: 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.
Venue: Singapore Bible College.
Previously, some Christian theologies of non Christian religions have a tendency to treat non-Christian religions as tight, separate systems, but these theologies do not reflect the multi-religious realities in Asia whereby influences and cross fertilisation of religious beliefs are daily experiences. When identities are hyphenated, do we have theological models that reflect on these intersections of faiths? What is the relationship between the Christian gospel with past religious traditions of new converts from Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim backgrounds? Instead of a total rejection of past faiths, is it possible, without falling into syncretism, to promote both traditions resulting in possible new hyphenated religious identities, for example, a Christian-Buddhist identity?
Most studies on multi-religious belongings have tended to be undertaken from a Western and liberal academic perspective. The lecture explores disputed debates on multi-religious belongings and proposes a position of “universal access exclusivism” which enables one to sustain multi-religious identity without denying the uniqueness of Jesus Christ among world religions.
About the Speaker:
Dr. Tan Kang San serves as Head of Mission Studies at Redcliffe College, UK. Kang San completed his Doctor of Ministry in Missiology under Professors Harold Netland and Paul Hiebertiebert Hiebert at Trinity International University, USA. He is editor of Redcliffe Mission E-zine journal and the book The Soul of Mission, and had published over 30 articles in the area of Asian theology, Buddhism and theology of religion. Previously, Kang San worked with OMF International and currently is on the Board of Trustees with Church Mission Society (Britain). In addition, he is also a Consultant for World Evangelical Alliance on Interfaith issues, and a member of Lausanne Theological Advisory Group. He is married to Loun-Ling Lee and they have a 15 year old daughter, Chara.
S$10 for general public; S$5 for SBC alumni; S$5 for SBC students (special rate of S$3 per person for those who register through thier respective class).
Ichthus members please bring along your membership card to enter without charges.
For registration and enquires, please email with your name, address, contact number & the name of the event, or call Phyllis at +65 6559 1532. Prior registration is preferred due to limited seats.
For students of Singapore Bible College, please register through your class representative. Class representative please return the registration formbefore 12 August 2009 for the group rate to be effective.
To confirm your seating, please make your payment 1 week in advance.
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