Monday, June 29, 2009

Took this picture in the morning at a BP church. Modified it in the evening.

Who sent me 8 books in 2007 ????????


Two years ago, in May 2007, I was supposed to go for full time study. But somehow I didn't get to. Nonetheless a friend (or some friends) mailed a box to my office during that time. When I opened it, I was very surprised and happy.

These books seem new. And based on the titles, I can guess the mailer's theological inclination. But until today, after two years, I still don't know who sent it. I've tried asked around but still can't find.

If I have access to DNA detection technology like those in CSI, I would have done so.

Anyway, if you are the mailer and reading, I want to thank you very much. I appreciate all these gifts. I think you have your reasons not to let me know who you are, but nevertheless I'm really grateful.



Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Fundy Sunday

I was at a Bible-Presbyterian (BP) church today. As usual when I got to a church which I haven't been to, I will try to learn more about the church's teaching. And the best place to do this is through the church's notice board and freebies stands.

The notices and advertisement displayed on a church's notice board often tells you a lot about the church. For eg. through the endorsement and advertisement of seminars or alert notices, you can get a rough idea of the church's theology.

The freebies stand usually provides free literatures that promulgate the church's teaching. So the most usual freebies you can find at these stands are gospel tracts.

This particular morning, I helped myself with 3 literatures taken from the freebies stand of the church. Then I sat down and look through them:



Pokemon: Friend or Foe. This is a pocket sized 18 pages booklet written by Dr. Tow Siang Hwa to warn Christian parents over Pokemon as harmful and 'tapped from demon forces' to deceive children (p.4).

The author of the booklet has good intention but this particular sentence almost made my day:"Today it is Pokemon, the devil's trump card for the new millenium." (p.7). Among many other things, the booklet states that Pokemon is a "New Age pantheism" that filled with "occult incantations and magic words throw open the door to evil Satanic forces" (p.9). I almost roll over my seat.



Bible Witness newsletter, issue March - June 2009. This is a local BP's newsletter. In this issue, the entire newsletter features the late Rev. Dr. Timothy Tow (Dr. Tow Siang Hwa's brother), the mainperson behind the BP establishment in Singapore who passed away on 20th April 2009. This issue is a compilation of messages, condolences, and testimonials related to him.

Rev. Dr. Timothy Tow is a remarkable man with no small achievements. He dedicated himself to full-time Christian work in 1935 through the great Chinese preacher John Sung. He then set up the BP in 1954 in Singapore by separating his church from the then Chinese Presbyterian Synod.

Amidst other evangelistic works in Singapore and Malaysia, in 1962 he founded Far Eastern Bible College, and served as a systematic theologian there. Throughout his life, he has helped found Bible colleges at Myammar, Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Cambodia. Here are two remarks made about him:
"The motto "...for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1.9) had kept [Rev. Dr. Timothy Tow] faithful "holding forth the word of life" (Phil 2.16), steadfast and unmoveable in his stand on the King James Bible, the Bible of the Reformation, the only Bible whose translators suffered the fires of Rome. While some BPs have defected from the KJV to embrace the NIV, NKJV, and other corrupt modern English versions, he continued to hold fast, unmoveable to the end." (p.7)

"Rev. Tow wrote in one of his pastoral letters, "A new form of attack on God's Word, however, has arisen. It is by the proliferation of translating hte Bible based on the corrupt text of Westcott and Hort since the mid-twentieth century." (p.16).
Obviously it is not an understatement to reckon him as Singapore's father of the Christian fundamentalism.



The Burning Bush: Theological Journal of the Far Eastern Bible College, issue July 2008. There is an essay on "Postmodernism and the Emergent Church" by Dr. Jeffrey Khoo. If you are looking for cheap shot on the Emergent Church, much less on Postmodernism, this is the essay for you. "The mission of the church according to the Emergent Church is thus not the original mission of Christ which is to get sinners to be reconciled to the thrice holy God through the Gospel, but to help people to get along with one another and enjoy one another's company in the context of a "generous orthodoxy" - truth is subjective, uncertain, broad, and varied." (p.68)

The other essay worth mentioning is "Mark Them Which Cause Divisions" by Paul Ferguson. It's a response to a critic written by the leaders of another BP church that doesn't think that the Hebrew & Greek texts used by KJV translators as the best 'inspired' text.

After a lengthy reply, the author launched a series of questions to the critics in riposte. The first question is this:"Do you believe it is possible that the underlying text of the KJV in Hebrew and Greek is an exact 100% copy of the autographs? If not, do you have a Scriptural framework and any objective textual critical framework for rejecting so that we call can "test" your bold assertions?" (Bold original, p.101)

This question undercuts itself twice. First, anyone who is not omniscient would say 'yes' to a "is it possible" question. Is it possible that the underlying text of the KJV is not an exact 100% copy of the autograph? To repeat, any mortal will say 'yes'. The issue is on probability.

Second, Paul Ferguson asked for an "objective textual critical framework" from his dissenters. But if he adheres to the belief that KJV's underlying Hebrew & Greek texts are the same as the autograph, then he himself doesn't have an objective textual critical framework to test his own belief by not possessing the autographs.

Yes, after reading all these, I repented.. Three times just to make sure.

Tennis legend Arthur Ashe's theodicy

I first read this story from Methodist Message June 2009 issue. Then I found a more elaborated one at Caroline Newswire website (edited version):

One of tennis’ most recognizable and revered players is the late Arthur Ashe. Ashe was a top ranked player in the 1960’s and 70’s. Raised in the segregated south, he was the first African-American tennis player to win a Grand Slam tournament. Over the course of his storied career, Ashe won 33 career singles titles and 18 doubles. Ashe died on February 6, 1993 after a courageous battle with HIV.

Ashe was much more than an athlete though. His commitment to social justice, health and humanitarian issues left a mark on the world as his tennis did on the court. You can read more of about his life and legacy on his website at http://www.arthurashe.org/home.

During his battle with HIV, Ashe received letters from fans from all over the world. He read all of his letters, but only replied to one. The fan who wrote to him asked him, “Why does God have to select you for such a bad disease?

Ashe replied, “In the world, there are 50 million children who start playing tennis each year, 1 million of them really learn to play tennis. Half a million manage to learn professional tennis. 50,000 come to the circuit, 5,000 reach the grand slam. 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 reach the semi-final round, 2 reach the final round, and only one wins the championship. When I was holding the cup, I never asked, ‘God, why me?’ and today in pain, how could I ask him, ‘why me?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The encounter with science is theological

"For persons of faith, the encounter with science adds to our understanding of the world and of ourselves; even more, it adds to our understanding of the holy that stands at the center of our faith... For the person of religious faith, the encounter with science is itself a religious and a theological event."
(Philip Hefner, The Human Factor, p.9)

God and science don't mix because...

A recent article titled "God and Science Don't Mix: A scientist can be a believer. But professionally, at least, he can't act like one."

The author started by qouting J.B.S. Haldane:
"My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world."-J.B.S. Haldane "Fact and Faith" (1934).
The issue here is not merely the existence of the supernatural, but the supernatural's interference to an experiment. The former is different from the latter. The former is doubting the existent of the supernatural, while the latter necessitates it, because it doesn't make sense to say a non-existant able to interfere.

Haldane and the author of the article haphazardly pushed 'atheism' and 'theism' into categories which are barely recognizable.

The fact is that being atheistic simply means not having any belief in the existence of God, and being theistic is having a belief in the existence of God. Whether can God's existence interferes in scientific experiment is a later stage question.

Scientists who believe in God's existence do not necessary need to assume divine interference in their experiment. To argue that it does is making a logical jump.

The question of methods in scientific experiment is not on a priori assumption whether supernatural interference occur or not. Alister McGrath has warned of this danger of reductionism. By referring to Roy Bhaskar's stratification reality, McGrath noted that each stratum of reality has to be studied by methods and assumption derived from that stratum itself.

Each scientific experiment requires a set of method and assumption which can only be deduced from the subject matter. To force supernatural interference into a subject a priori, and then accuse such assumption as irrelevant is like hitting a strawman that one has built.

Hence God and science don't mix not because the belief in God will disrupts scientific work, but because scientific work, like each stratum of reality, need to be studied on its own accord within the regularity and orderness that God has set up for it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I can't be an elder at John Piper's church

I'm too timid to affirm the existent of Adam and Eve, so no hope that I'll be an elder at John Piper's Bethlehem.

What do you have to believe about creation in order to be an elder at Bethlehem? How wide of a variance does this allow?

1) You have to believe that Adam and Eve were historical persons and that, therefore, there can't be millions of years between the first human being and now. That's because the Bible won't work for millions of years between Adam and Even and now. If you allow for gaps in the genealogies, then you might arrive at 15,000 years or whatever. So that's clear in our affirmation of faith.

Read the rest of the requirement at Desiring God website.

Does that means scientific data have no place at all in our noetic effected conception of not only the world, but also the Bible and the mysterious (and often trans-logical) way God works?

If there's a place, where?

They said scientific data (often polarized as the 'worldly' data) is doubtful because our knowing faculty is marred by sin. But when it comes to the Bible and the divine workings, suddenly our knowing faculty became unmarred and redeemed. When asked why the double standard, the usual answer is, "Because the Holy Spirit guides us to understand the Bible."

I find this attitude as arrogant as those who exclude spirituality/religion in scientific discourse.

If my trust in Christ has to include mindful acknowledgment, I'll have to remain timid at the moment.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

God & existence of nuclear weapon

A new (scientific) form of the age old "problem of evil" question goes like this:

Why would God create a universe in which nuclear weapons are possible?

Robert John Russell gave a very good new (scientific) answer by first stating the theology of creation. My summary of his answer:
God created our current cosmos that is governed by various mechanical systems (for eg. Einstein's special relativity) in order to give rise to humans like ourselves to enter into an everlasting relationship with Him. And with such various mechanical systems around, the rise of humans' technological development based on these systems is unavoidable.
You may read Russell's answer at The Center of Theology and the Natural Sciences website.

Let us make robots in our own image

This is Kobian. It is made to display facial expression according to human's. Latest android from Japan.



Watch the video and read the report at Science & Religion Today.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Did Darwin Kill God? Debate

On May 12th 2009, Theos think tank organized a debate titled Did Darwin Kill God? between atheist and theist scientists at the Westminster Abbey.

The atheists were Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, and Nancy Rothwell, a professor at the faculty of life sciences, University of Manchester.

The theists were the broadcaster and fertility expert Robert Winston, professor of science and society at Imperial College, London, and Denis Alexander, director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion.

Among many other interesting exchanges between both sides, this particular one fascinates me:
Steve Jones: …I used to read very heavy books…at about age of ten or eleven, I read Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not A Christian…and suddenly that made me think, “Hang on, there’s some problems with this religion business. It’s all made up.” And that’s what I concern with. It’s all made up. It’s unlike science. If we are not here, if humans are not evolved, we will still have a solar system, we will still have, probably will have the smell I am risking my life working on. But we wouldn’t have religion. Religion is a man made construct. And that’s surely why I never had any time for it.

Denis Alexander: ...it’s interesting in the way that people’s pilgrimages go different directions. Because just thinking of that same book, Bertrand Russell’s book Why I Am Not A Christian, I have a very good friend who’s an atheist, who read that book to support his atheism. And as a consequence, he became a Christian. Actually he thought that if, you know, such a brilliant man could have such a poorly based arguments, then there must be something going on in this religion business...he is now a professor in neuroscience. It’s interesting the way that different books could influence different people into different directions.

Read the news coverage and listen to the podcast at Theos website.

How to eat buffet?


Personally, I have never thought about the approaches to a buffet meal. When I go for buffet, I'll just walk in, sit down, and get my food. No strategy, no scheme.

Only recently I heard about strategies of buffeting. Probably because I met a few lovely people who enjoy buffet a lot. Hearing them sharing strategies to make a buffet worth their money, I begin to suspect that there are some PhD theses being published on this.

Basically there are 2 segments to get the best out of buffet: (1) The Dos; (2) The Don'ts:
The Dos:
a. Sleep early before the buffet day.
b. Exercise or do more physical activities than usual.
c. Go to the toilet as often as you can to clear stomach space.
d. During buffet, the first thing to get are fresh oysters, scallops, lobsters, crabs, and prawns.
e. Drink as little water as possible because water will take up a lot of stomach space.
f. Always remind yourself how much you are paying for the buffet as a motivation to keep you eating.
g. Go buffet with your buddies and close friends.
h. Always keep a look out for new dishes being served. And rush to be the first to get the new dishes.

The Don'ts:
a. If you are going for buffet dinner, skip lunch. If you are going for buffet lunch, skip breakfast.
b. Never take rice, beehoon, noodle, or bread!
c. Never take fruits, desserts, water, juices, or carbonated drinks.
c. Don't eat salty dishes because it will make you thirsty.
d. Never do buffet dinner on first date because a glutton spoils the charm.
e. Don't tell or listen to jokes during buffet because laughter rushes air into the stomach.
f. Don't try to be gentle in scooping the food. Use a spade if you must. Buffet is a "survival of the fittest" arena.
You have other strategies??

Monday, June 22, 2009

What credit culture is doing to us?

On Sunday, a friend who is still a student called to invite me to his 21st birthday party this coming weekend. I told him that I might be working hence can't guarantee my attendance. If I'm too tired, I will have to miss it.

All is well until he told me that he still short of money to pay for the party. Then he asked if I can lend him. I reminded him that he still owe me a sum which I lent to him a while back. Nonetheless I asked him how much does he need, to see if there is any amount that I can help out. He said, "$400."

He has sent invitations to people to attend his party about 2 or 3 weeks ago. That means probably he has booked the place and arranged the food. So when he told me that he still lack of $400, I was very surprised. That means he organized a party without having the money to do it.

My friend and I have very different worldview on 'consumption'. When I was 20, I was already in a foreign land laboring for my own food. If I don't work, I don't get paid. If I don't get paid, I don't eat. Simple rule to consumption.

My friend is not working and he is organizing a birthday bash by lending money from everywhere. This is consumption by credit. A prevalent culture around me. My friend is just perhaps a minuscule example compared to adults' marriages. Most people who are getting married booked the banquet first. And then hoping, or perhaps more accurately expecting, that the monetary gifts from their guests will be enough to foot the bill. (But marriages is not really an exact example as there is a "you rub my back, and I'll rub yours in return" unspoken principle in place)

The other day I saw an advertisement on MRT that encourages consumers to borrow money from the bank. The bank in return will give presents to their customers. The more you borrow, the better present you'll get. I can't remember the exact condition but it goes something like this: If your credit amount is 5 digits (ten thousands and above), you'll get an iPod Touch. If lesser than 5 digits, you will just get a normal iPod.

And recently, cineplexes have been showing Visa's GO advertisement which features places and various hobbies around the world. Throughout the whole advertisement its subtle message is this: "GO everywhere and do whatever with Visa credit card. Enjoy yourself and we will take care of your bill." But the truth is, these credit services just postpone the billing (with interest, of course). They don't take care of the bill.

These advertisements are basically wooing people to be in debt. I'm offended.

So did I lend money to my friend? Not merely I did not want to, but I can't. My saving account currently has much less than that. So I bid him good luck to look somewhere else.

Going away again

I've start packing, getting ready to move into hostel. There are about 20 small boxes and a few luggage bags. I hope the hostel room has enough space to fit everything in.

And yesterday marks the second last session with my Bible Study group. It might be the last, depending on whether do I need to work next Sunday. Next month onwards, the group will merge with the 'Young Adults'.

For me, it's a breather. I have been doing this non-stop since 5 years ago. And I have told the person in charge that I want to stop doing it for a few times already. But each time it appears that there is serious shortage of helpers. So I stayed. But this time round, I can't stay anymore because beginning next month, I'm required to visit different churches every Sunday for the first semester.

But in my job, I've visited almost all mainline protestant and independent churches in Singapore. By my own initiative, I have made visits to Roman Catholic and Coptic Orthodox churches. So if the program to get the first semester students expose to wider Christian liturgy and context, then I will just be going through again what I've been through.

Besides that, there will be a student retreat before the first semester starts. And this is what the retreat is about, as stated in the letter:
The theme for Retreat 2009 is “Come with me”. This theme expresses the Lord’s call to us as we begin a new academic year. It is a call for us to go with God on this journey of faith, discovery and spiritual formation. It is a reminder that God will lead and see us through the joys and challenges which lay ahead.

“Come with me” is also our call to one another. It is a call to build a community characterised by love and faith as we sojourn together.

Finally, it is also our lecturers’ call to us! It is not just the call to embrace the rigours of academic training but also to experience that deep transformation of heart and mind in the process of theological education.

So, basically there are 4 calls: (1) Come with TTC, (2) Come with God on a journey, (3) Come with TTC's community, and (4) Come with lecturers. None of these should be "miss call" as these are important for me to start living a different life.

Yet though important, I feel very heavy to leave my current life. I've spent the past half a decade being who I am. And now a different world is approaching. Surely I will miss these 5 years, as these are the time my life as a young adult is formed.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to share this phase of my life in non-theological terms

Last Sunday I got to know two Christian young mothers who are in the early thirties at a wedding dinner. After knowing that I’m not a Singaporean, they asked if I’m working or studying here.

I told them that currently I’m still working but not for long as I’ll be studying beginning next month until at least three years later.

They asked which course am I undertaking. I told them theology. They asked if that is some studies related to Christianity. I gave an affirmative before I elaborated that it is actually a course combining some historical, literary, and philosophical studies.

They asked further, “That’s pretty general. What subject will you be majoring in?”

“The interaction between the natural sciences and Christian faith,” I shyly whispered while gulping. Probably that’s the best I can put in non-theological lingo.

They asked even further, "Why do you want to take up this subject? Are you going to be a pastor or priest?"

I replied, "So far I can't see myself being a priest or pastor. I want to study because I have huge passion in the subject." And their eyebrows raised.

I have been giving this answer whenever I’m asked what will I be studying. And whenever I replied, “Theology”, the inquirers would just scratch their heads. It’s unsurprising and common.

To say that ‘theology’ is ‘Christian studies’ is of course an oversimplification which is almost false and highly inaccurate. So I devised the answer that it is a combination of some historical, literary, and philosophical studies.

And some inquirers simply replied in kind, “Alright.. It’s some cheem subject”, before jumping to other topics like, “How old are you?”

Monday, June 15, 2009

The first Adam & the 'Descendants of the Dragon'

Is Adam a real historical person?

A while back, someone (let's call him Mr. Creedy) told me his reason for believing Adam as a real flesh & blood who walked the garden of Eden:

"Adam is a real historical person because of the genealogy found in the gospel that traces Jesus' ancestor all the way back to Adam (Luke 3). And then we have St. Paul's comparison of Adam as the first man with Christ as the last/second man (1 Corinthians 15)."

I can see Mr. Creedy's point. It is similar with Dr. Carl Wieland's conviction which motivated him to start the Creation Ministries International:

"Lord Jesus Christ Himself alluded to the Old Testament as a trustworthy historical witness in His references to Jonah and the big fish and how God had created human beings male and female from the beginning of Creation, as opposed to millions of years later."
(Christian Post website: Gospel at Stake in Creation-Evolution Debate, Argues Ministry Leader, dated 5 June 2009.)

This view does sound 'biblical'. It met all the criteria for being 'biblical'. For eg. it alludes to St. Paul and especially to Jesus' own reference to Adam. So as long as those New Testament people said it, very likely that it is 'biblical' and hence true.

But can we establish facts from such criteria?

Christians are tempted to say, "Yes". But when it is said that orchid Gomesa crispa's seed is the smallest to our current discovery in relation to Matthew 13.31-32 ("mustard seed... it is the smallest of all seeds...), why Christians conclude along with this fact by saying that Jesus was using imagery relevant to his audiences about 2000 years ago?

Are there things which are 'biblical' but do not attest to the external spacio-temporal historical reality?

In similar manner, when Chinese people refer to themselves as the 'descendants of the dragon' (Mandarin: 龙的传人), do they really mean that their ancestor is a snake-like creature?

Could it be that to the Chinese, the dragon is a great creature that symbolizes power and success, and by reckoning themselves as the creature's descendants, the Chinese see themselves as belonging to a powerful and successful ethnic community?

If yes, then when Chinese say that they are the descendants of dragon, they don't mean that their biological ancestor is a snake-like creature.

When we look at 1 Corinthians 15, we have to bear in mind that St. Paul was contrasting the characteristic of the pre-redeem and the redeemed humanity. St. Paul allusion is to emphasize this contrast that he referred the first man as Adam and the last or second man as Jesus.

On another hand, if St. Paul really thought that only Adam and Jesus are man in the biological sense, then it would not make sense to call Jesus as the last or second man, as there are so many biological humans around him, including St. Paul himself. This shows that the "first" and "last" categories used in the passages are not signifying historical sequence, but something more.

Nonetheless we cannot conclude that St. Paul did not think both Adam and Jesus as non-historical. It is likely that St. Paul knew that Jesus was historical, yet we just don't know what St. Paul think about the historicity of Adam.

However what we can confidently establish from 1 Corinthians 15 is that St. Paul was not talking about their historicity but the symbolic significance of Adam and Jesus in relation to humanity. The same can be applied also to Romans 5 where the contrast between Adam and Jesus is found.

So, was Adam a historical flesh & blood human person?

I think the answer might not be as how Mr. Creedy and Dr. Wieland want it to be. From the attestations in the New Testament, we can conclude that Adam is reckoned to be someone much more than a biological person. He is an everlasting symbol of the pre-redeem humanity.

Perhaps the relation between symbolic and biological person is well portrayed in this short dialog in the movie 'V for Vendetta':

Mr. Creedy: (Desperately shooting at the approaching V) Die! Die! Why won't you die?... Why won't you die?
V: Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.
Sometimes, powerful symbol transcends flesh & blood. Probably Jesus and St. Paul were more concern with the idea of Adam rather than his historicity. This is not to say that Jesus and St. Paul didn't think Adam was a historical person. Their concern was not over the historicity but what Adam represents. Very likely that Jesus and St. Paul thought Adam was a historical person.

What are we waiting for?

This 243-pages book is written by 18 different people. Some of the contributors are Richard Bauckham, I.Howard Marshall, Trevor Hart, Stephen Holmes, John Goldingay, Robin Parry, and great others.

The book is about future ‘hope’. In theological jargon, it is ‘eschatology’. This hope-full book is divided into 4 sections: Hopeful Word, Hopeful Church, Hopeful Culture, and Hopeful World (really ‘hope-full’, right?).

Each of these essays presents the Christian perspective of the future; how it will be and our role in anticipating that future. It’s a collaboration among biblical scholars, theologians, missionaries, and other Christian leaders to clarify the often misunderstood Christian view on the future to the general public . Written on popular-level for wide readership.

Among the many insights presented in the book, here are some quotes I’m dying to share:

The Left Behind series – astonishingly popular; astonishingly badly written; astonishingly wrong...’
(Stephen Holmes, p.1)

I tell students that whenever they use the word eschatology they should wash their mouth out with soap, because it sounds like a technical term with defined meaning, but actually means different things to different people.’
(John Goldingay, p.24)

‘...my father had a book which showed clearly that the second coming of Christ would take place in the then future year of 1934 (actually the year of my own arrival on the scene..!)..’
(I. Howard Marshall, p.37)

All Christian reflection on hell needs to view it from Golgotha where God himself endured our God-forsakenness so that we might receive his life.’
(Robin Parry, p.111)

The aim of this chapter was to write about heaven. Having written about the need to feed the poor, meeting strangers on buses and the blessings of good food, some might think I have neglected the task.’
(Justin Thacker, p.123)

God says in effect; “Behold, I am about to make all things new! Let me show you something of what it’s going to look like when it’s finished... Now, you go out there and start living now as though the job was already done.”’
(Trevor Hart, p. 137)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

14 year-old boy survives after hit by meteorite

Not only Susan in Monster vs Aliens survived. This school boy too. From Mail Online:
The rock flew down from space at speeds of 30,000mph, and grazed past 14-year-old Gerrit Blank as he made his way to school.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What I found yesterday

Acts Lifestyle, that hosted Prof. Thio Li-Ann's recent public talk, has a bargain corner with books priced at SGD$3 to $10. At that corner I found:



Karl Barth and the Strange New World within the Bible: Barth, Wittgenstein, and the Metadilemmas of the Enlightenment by Neil MacDonald.

I got it at SGD$5! Usually works from Paternoster Theological Monographs series, which this book belongs, market at between SGD$50 - $70.

Previously I've read MacDonald's essay in Renewing Biblical Interpretation, and some parts of his Metaphysics and the God of Israel. The impression that I have is that he is a theologian working from philosophy of language and the analytic tradition. Hence he argues around (thus confined within) language structure to establish his case. And such exercise might appear to some as overly repetative and rather simplistic yet nuanced and solid, without stretching much imagination.

Christians' hobby: Ridiculing theologian?


I attended Prof. Thio Li-Ann public talk on her new book yesterday. She was a good speaker and perhaps very good at her job.

During the talk, she explicitly told us that she stop commenting on an issue which she is not familiar with. To paraphrase her, "I'll stop here for I can't go further".

All was well until at one point she commented (to paraphrase), "There are theologians who expound the Scripture to back their case. But I'm just a lawyer." And the crowd chuckled as she continued expounding her reading of the Scripture.

It was as if she was saying that theologians, who supposedly are the experts in reading Scripture, failed to understand the Scripture as compared to a lawyer.

This is not the first time I heard Christians ridiculing the vocation 'theologian'. At numerous pulpits, I've listened to preachers making fun of not specific theologians or biblical scholars, but the vocations in general.

Each time they do that, they never mention names. They just write off the vocations unreasonably and disrespectfully. To think about it, of course they can't mention names. Why? I suspect most of the time, they don't know who to mention.

That means these actions are mere jeers made at others in order to elevate their own stature as better readers of Scripture. Some sort of self-promotion tactic. And I find this (to put it politely) puzzling and frustrating.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Zondervan Handbook Set @ only $49.90!


Can anything good comes from the Baptist? YES! The Zondervan Handbook set:
Zondervan Handbook of Christian Beliefs edited by Alister McGrath and J.I. Packer.

Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity by Jonathan Hill and others.

Location: Singapore Baptist Bookstore. 1 Goldhill Plaza #01-25 S(308899). Tel: 65-6253-7024 or 65-6253-7578

I acquired my set just now. Only SGD$49.90. Both handbooks are concise and provide basic information with sufficient depth to those new to Christianity. They bridge from elementary to intermediate level of learning.

I like especially the one on Christian beliefs as it gives me a simple framework of how to communicate the general Christian view on 'faith', 'relation between science & faith', relation between 'philosophy & faith', and many other basic topics to inquirers.

These are good resources for study groups that seek to explore further on these issues. Perhaps one day I might use one of these for a study group.

And now, I have another work by Alister McGrath added to my collection.

Currently reading these...


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why read Moltmann's The Crucified God?

"[This book] was part of my personal wrestling with God, my suffering under the dark side of God, the hidden face of God... the God-forsakeness of victim, and the godlessness of the guilty in the human history of violence and suffering." (Jurgen Moltmann, 'The Crucified God: A Modern Theology of the Cross' lecture at Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry)

A dose of O'Donovan

In heeding the church, society heeds a dangerous voice, a voice that is capable of challenging authority effectively, a voice which, when the oppressed have heard it (even in an echo or at a distance), they cannot remain still. (Oliver O'Donovan, The Desire of the Nations, p.252. Emphasis added.)


God has done something which make it impossible for us any more to treat the authority of human society as final and opaque. He has sent the anointed one to rule; and wherever he has appeared- to John the Baptist by the Jordan, to the sick in Capernaum, to the crowds in Jerusalem as he entered on an ass- he has loosened the claims of existing authority, humbling them under the control of his own law of love. (p.253)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

"What do you get by serving God?"

STF casually shared the question above which was asked by the speaker at a church camp he attended.

"What do you get by serving God?"

I was puzzled when I heard it. STF asked me for my answer. After a while, I told him that I don't have an answer. I really don't have. STF shared what the speaker said.

"Some people get a sense of fulfillment, some get fame, some get money, etc. But all of those are not what you get when you serve God. When you serve God, you get God."

I have to admit that it sounded profound to me at first. I was at awe. After that, when I was alone, I kept wondering why I didn't have an answer to that question when asked.

This question is foreign to me in the sense that I didn't thought of it in recent past. Yet on the other hand, this question remarkably familiar because I've thought of it in the distant past.

But in the first place, this is a right question? And is what the speaker said the right answer?

I think the question is fine, since everyone get something by doing anything. But the answer that we will get God by serving God is a bit fishy to me. It sounds as if we can acquire God by doing something. But isn't God the one that get us, and get to us, first before we initiate anything with him?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Local Theologians & Left-Behind Theology

Bravo to Tony Siew, NT scholar at TTC, for highlighting this ever-misunderstood notion about the end times. Most churches that I've been to preached about incoming Rapture and our going to heaven, a place somewhere up there (a recent local publication is this one by Rony Tan). The only occasion that I came across which taught the right teaching on this issue was Ben Witherington's visit to Singapore.

Here's what Tony Siew wrote,
We are caught up (raptured) to meet with him in the air/clouds and together with the Lord, we shall return to earth. (Italic added)
It's great to see local theologians to speak out on this issue. Since Tony has kicked start the conversation, why not other local theologian-bloggers have a rally-blog posting on the Left-Behind theology on their own blog for the next 2 or 3 weeks for the sake of the Christian e-community? (grinning towards Sivin, Soo-Inn, Kar Yong, Anthony Loke, David Burke, Sherman Kuek, I-Ching, Fong Yang and Kam Weng)

No need to be exegetically long or theologically cutting edge. Just a brief reflection over the Rapture. Such reflection can serves as a breather amidst the tedious daily works :)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cosmetic Surgery & Aesthetic


Previously I've remarked the irony that, "making-up is an act of validation. An attempt to validate ourselves in the public. And this implies that we, in the first place, are invalids."

Alex Tang recently highlighted an article on whether is cosmetic surgery sinful (read the article if you want to make sense the rest of this post). Alex asked for thoughts about the article, and here is mine:
3 agreements with the article:

1) The culture of indulging in false beauty is communal.

2) Decision to go for cosmetic surgery is made under duress.

3) "...do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love serve one another.”

3 critics on the agreeable points:

1) Is there such a clean-cut to differentiate between 'real' and 'false' beauty? Beauty can extend simply from our clothes, our behaviour, to extremes like cosmetic surgery. So before we declare what constitute 'false' beauty, we need to be clear of that.

2) All decision that we made are influence in one way or another by our surrounding and experiences. Hence, all decision are made under duress. The issue is not even the degree of duress but by which duress are we being influenced under.

3) Not sure if self-indulgence can be so uncritically defined and applied in cosmetic surgery. Isn't afraid of hell in the after-life a type of self-indulgence? Perhaps, I'm extending the meaning of the term used by the author of the article. If no, then again, I have to ask where to draw the line between self-indulgence from self-preservation (in this case, socially and culturally)?

My 2 other responses:

1) So far the author did not highlight cases where the patients' features are severely disfigured (like those who has nose cancer). For these patients, in order for them to lead a normal life back into the society, reconstruction surgery is needed (unless the author distinguish between 'reconstruction' from 'cosmetic' surgery. If this is the case, again I'm required to ask where to draw the line?).

2) So far the author didn't demonstrate any theological response to the issue. What she did is just pick out some verses and apply it to the issue. I'm not against this practice but such practice is often uncritical and premature when it comes to contemporary issues.

Alex's reply:
Hi Sze Zeng,

I like your critical reading of the article. Personally I read the article as an attempt to justify the narcissistic and self-indulgent elements of a society.

It is ridiculous to blame it all on 'duress' as if someone is forcing one to get a 'nip and tuck.' That's is shifting the blame to society. It is always a personal choice and it is time people take responsibility for their actions.

The various examples given are attempts for self justification. The pathetic attempt to use Scripture to defend one's positive shows the poor exegesis and the ignore the fact that Scripture is always counter-cultural.

I take the point that this is not reconstructive surgery which is a treatment modalities. This is normal individual chasing a fantasy and hoping that 'nip and tuck' will give the instant solution to their self-esteem and self-knowledge problems. Basically they need to know God and thus know themselves.

Lazy to blog

It's not that I have nothing to blog or had I stop thinking. I'm just too lazy to write down my thoughts. I'm frequenting Facebook and content with updating my thoughts through the 'shoutout' box, though it's only in brief.

Perhaps, that has aggravate my short-attention span. I've been more and more lazy and having less patience to sit down to blog. Though I still miss reading my own elaborated thoughts very much, as Saunder Lewis said it, "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?"

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