Monday, August 23, 2010

Roland Chia: a passionate theologian

Anyone who thinks that all theologians always talk until they fall asleep in their own lecture must have not attended any of Roland Chia's lesson before.

Roland is currently the Chew Hock Hin Chair of Christian Doctrine and the Dean of Postgraduate Studies at Trinity Theological College. After attended his introductory course on theology for one year, I'm now attending his course on eschatology. I think this is one of his pet subjects as he has written a book on it, 'Hope for the World: A Christian Vision of the Last Things'. He was the mentor of the family group that I was attached to in my previous two semesters.

Roland doesn't use powerpoint to aid his presentation. After he walk into the class, he would lay down all the notes that he needs on his table. And after most of the students are present, he will start his lecture.

He lectures like a master story teller. On the topic of eschatological discourse in modern times, a topic which extends over three weeks, Roland narrated the discourse beginning from the time of Albert Schweitzer to Rudolf Bultmann to Karl Barth to C. H. Dodd to Oscar Cullman to Jurgen Moltmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg. Following the class week by week is like following an episodic television drama.

Roland always include the examination of the dialectic among pertinent theologians in his story. This exercise helps us to understand how these theologians relate to one another in their theological proposal and counter-proposal.

One may also notice that Roland's gift is particularly in the clarifying of ideas with precision, besides being a good story teller. His gift is best reflected in his book 'Revelation and Theology: The Knowledge of God in Balthasar and Barth', a doctoral dissertation done under the supervision of the prominent British theologian Colin Gunton. It is already difficult to understand both Barth and Balthasar, not to mention to compare and contrast their theology.

At some of our family group sessions, we get to consult Roland over various issues pertaining to medical ethics. In recent years, he has spent much of his time engaging this area and has recently written a book to help Christians understand the issue, 'Biomedical Ethics and The Church: An Introduction'.

Previously he has co-edited with Mark Chan a book on the relationship between science and theology in the area of genetic and anthropology titled 'Beyond Determinism and Reductionism: Genetic Science and the Person'. No wonder one collegemate recently wrote that Roland is like a "theological dictionary in the form of human." I concur.

Besides being a good lecturer, he is also a caring and wonderful supervisor and dean whose assistance is always there for the postgraduate students. That's what some of the postgraduate students told me.


Ita said...

"passionate"... I agree with you :) When questions asked, he would passionately answer till we ran out of time :p
Btw, last week in the end of Theology 1 class he proposed "suprema scriptura" instead of "sola scriptura". After that he quickly left the class, probably afraid that the Reformers would "attack" him :)

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Ita,

Hahaha... Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

My guess is that he was not afraid but, rather, he had no time for a long session of Q&A.

There was once I brought up an issue about homosexuality during the family group. We just managed to touched on the surface of the issue as the matter is very complex and needs continuous engagement. So until a certain point in time, we both understood that it is better for us to change the topic :-)

One more thing that I really like about his class, which I think you also will agree: Roland is very gracious in giving us break time! :D

SHWong said...

I concur that he is a brilliant scholar and good teacher. But I'm ashamed to admit that I often fall asleep in his class. It's totally my own fault. It's a regret for me not to learn more.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi SHWong,

Thank you for sharing your experience here.

Actually sometimes I fell asleep as well. And usually it's the first half-hour of the lesson. And after that, I can concentrate :D

scruffy said...

Hello my dear friend for whom i have great respect :D

I see you managed to find my little corner of the web haha. I originally put in your blog address under "links we like" because i like your blog, but thought i'd ask for your permission before i publish it ^_^

So, can I, dear friend?

P.s. I'm just started on the blogging journey so will appreciate your constructive feedback yeah!

Sze Zeng said...

Hi scruffy,

Thank you for dropping a comment here.

Do you have the practice to ask for permission before linking a blog? If yes, I have to apologize because I linked your blog on mine when I found it. Hope that does not cause any discomfort or inconvenience on your part -__-!!

As for me, you are free to link the blog at yours.

I am really glad to find another local theological blogging-kaki! :-)

scruffy said...

you are more than welcome to link mine.. it's just something I wanted to ask before I linked to yours (don't worry, it's not indicative of my personal preference!) Anyway, if i wanted a private space I would have password-protected it.

On the topic, I totally agree with that Roland Chia is passionate - so passionate that when he is obviously not feeling well, he will still turn up to teach until his body tells him to stop. That is quite remarkable! Although sometimes my mind does drift in and out a little...